Over the past year, the supply chain ⁠— and more recently the pharma supply chain ⁠— has been thrust into the limelight. While that spotlight spurred celebration of the supply chain’s resilience and significance to daily living, harsher realities about waste and poor planning also became apparent.

“The supply chain is often an afterthought,” said Lloyd Henly, regional produce manager of commercial supply chain for Western Europe, the Middle East and Africa for World Courier, an AmerisourceBergen company. “I think it was taken for granted getting the product shipped to the patient on time and in temperature. Unfortunately, we see recent examples across the U.S., Europe and other continents where vaccine batches have had to be destroyed. That’s due to poor logistics planning, handling, untrained staff, insufficient packaging, or it could be a combination.”

But what exactly is at stake when pharmaceuticals that depend on strict temperature controls exceed those limitations? It’s complicated, said Henly. More traditional pharmaceuticals with lower price points like headache tablets are more stable when it comes to temperature exposure, but biotech products like vaccines are derived from living organisms. 

“If you don’t get it right, the implications can be really unsettling,” said Henly. “For example, if a product arrives in a thermal container and the dry ice is melted, obviously depending on the stability of the product, this could have a profound effect on the efficacy and the safety of product, potentially rendering that unfit for the patient.”

Because drug portfolios are diversifying with detailed specifications, Henly said the traditional silo model of suppliers using localized logistics providers is no longer working. “An all-encompassing solution including packaging placement, prepositioning, and preconditioning end-to-end logistics is more essential than ever. By working with a single provider, organizations can secure the unbroken chain, ensuring visibility across every step in the supply chain.”