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The Future is Cold Chain Solutions: Don’t Risk an Unmanaged Supply Chain

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The Future is Cold Chain Solutions: Don’t Risk an Unmanaged Supply Chain

As medication therapies continue to innovate and rely on cold chain delivery, including the COVID-19 vaccine, health systems need to evaluate their programs, leverage technology and ensure their systems are fully managed to best help patients, reduce costs and streamline efficiency. Patient-centered cold chain supply chains focused on last-mile prescription delivery have evolved significantly over the last 15 years. This advancement might be due to the relative novelty of cold chain, which did not play a key role in patient interactions in the past.

Overcoming Initial Growing Pains

Because there has been no template for how to incorporate cold chain solutions into health systems’ and hospitals’ supply chains, they have had to rely on their staff, pharmacists, and partners to create what could be said is an ad hoc program. One of the greatest challenges they faced is determining how to verify a shipment — which product is best? How can a transaction be monitored? Thanks to advancements in technology, we can now use low-energy Bluetooth monitors to track micron-level environmental readings and use systems to verify a shipment’s progress.

Packaging is another area that has made significant strides in the past few decades. The industry has transitioned from status quo styrofoam packaging to making environmentally friendly packaging a priority. These advancements provide us with the resources, systems, and information we need to provide safe, consistent, and timely medication to patients everywhere.

Anticipating Future Innovation

The evolution of medicine forces insurance companies to redefine reimbursement to health systems, which in turn redefines priority around cold chain and accreditation. As researchers continue to advance medicine and cure diseases earlier, the health system supply chain must quickly catch up in support.

The industry will rely even more on mail medication and virtual healthcare in the future, and we can likely anticipate additional innovation soon. From packaging infused with chemicals to help products stay within temperature range during transport to incorporating technology within every shipping container so we have a live monitor to verify the conditions via an app every step of the way, cold supply chains will become even more accessible and reliable.

Investing in a Managed Cold Chain

To streamline current operations and prepare for future innovations, health systems should prioritize a managed cold supply chain, or create a process and leverage technology that delivers full transparency and awareness of inbound and outbound products. A managed system has processes in place to know if and when a shipment gets delivered, is opened in a timely manner and is properly stored. It also utilizes technology controls to track audits, losses and complaints, and fix potential issues before they materialize. Managed chains can be spearheaded within an organization or through a partnership that fills the gaps more easily than a custom process, such as TRIOSE’s Pharmacy IQ, which allows pharmacies to seamlessly incorporate delivery services into their existing structure.

On the other hand, an unmanaged system can be incredibly scary because it leaves systems vulnerable to the unknown. From a patient safety standpoint, when products can’t be verified, medicine to a patient’s home might arrive expired, useless or even dangerous. Unmanaged supply chains are also dangerous from a cost perspective. Consider the cost of specialty medication, which can have values of over $60,000 and be rendered useless because it circled via UPS or FedEx for five days without anyone knowing about it. There is a spectrum of significant risks to an unmanaged cold supply chain — safety, finances, lawsuits, etc.

Cold chain solutions might still be a relatively new frontier for healthcare providers, but there are a number of industry best practices that can be leveraged to maximize success. Prioritizing an assigned accountability person to manage inbound and outbound processes and investing in technology that boosts transparency at every turn aids in avoiding risks, increasing patient safety and improving health systems’ bottom lines.


Chapman Freeborn on COVID-19 Vaccine Transportation: “We are in a ‘perfect storm’ scenario”

With the first approved vaccine and a number of others in the final stages of testing, eyes turn to the aviation industry with a burning question – can it be transported? According to Chapman Freeborn, a worldwide market leader in aircraft charter solutions, vaccine transportation poses a number of difficult challenges but one that can be overcome with the right approach in place.

Currently, 58 vaccines are in clinical trials on humans, one of them is already approved for use in the United Kingdom and a few are already showing promising results. Pfizer, Moderna, and the University of Oxford vaccines proved to be up to 95% effective with the right dosage. While the trials are promising and the chances of returning to our normal lives are exciting, vaccine transportation might prove to be an overwhelming challenge.

“The main challenge that the aviation industry faces right now is planning,” said Neil Dursley, Chief Commercial Officer at Chapman Freeborn. “Currently we are in, what I would call, a ‘perfect storm’ scenario. The aviation industry, usually dominated and funded by passenger travel, is currently experiencing losses as the majority of those passenger fleets are grounded due to a lack of travelers. There has been an enormous demand for freighter capacity and huge global demand for PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) during the first three quarters of 2020, many of the Commercial Passenger Airlines converted their passenger fleets to passenger freighter aircraft by stripping out the seats and loading the passenger hold with boxes of PPE.

We are now in the ‘peak period’, where traditionally large volumes are flown from predominantly Asia to Europe and the United States, additionally, half of the Worlds AN124 (world’s largest freight aircraft) fleet grounded for maintenance, taking a large capacity away from the market, so the potential of an urgent need for Covid-19 vaccine transportation puts air freight industry in a difficult position,” Neil Dursley summed up the situation.

According to the experts, the biggest issue the industry will face is large-scale movement of vaccines over a short period of time. “We don’t have answers to many incredibly important questions yet. Where will it be manufactured? Will the vaccine require a single dose or multiple per person? What temperature will it have to be transported in? All these factors are important in preparing for logistics,” shared Chapman Freeborn’s CCO.

Vaccines, that currently show the most potential, have to be transported in a controlled environment, low temperatures. The most challenging to the industry would be the transportation of Pfizer vaccine that requires shipments to be transported in near minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94°F) temperature, while Moderna requirements are less stringent – ‘only’ -20°C (-4°F). The University of Oxford vaccines would be the easiest to transport as it can be stored in regular fridge temperatures of 2 to 8°C (35.6 to 46.4°F).

“Under normal circumstances, vaccines and pharmaceuticals are handled by approved Global Freight Forwarders. These companies have invested millions over decades in ensuring that their staff are fully trained and their facilities in strategic locations are GDP(Good Distribution Practice)  accredited. Likewise, many airlines have also gone through this process to be CEIV (Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics) accredited. However, depending on the temperature range of the vaccine, all aircraft capacity will be required to move this enormous volume.

Many airlines and other companies are getting ready to support this global logistics requirement and are upgrading facilities, testing ‘sky cells’ and ‘Envirotainers’. At origin points and destinations, once the aircraft are offloaded, the product will need to go into warehouses at airports with ‘Cool Chain’ capabilities. They will then need to be transported using ‘reefer trucks’ to ensure the integrity of this precious commodity so the entire supply chain needs to be working together. We have multiple Airlines within our Group of companies with multiple assets and capacity to support the global distribution of the vaccines and all supporting equipment combined with our many commercial Airline partners, ground handling companies and trucking networks. This is something that Chapman Freeborn and the Avia Solutions Group is working towards,” Neil Dursley explained.

About Chapman Freeborn

The Chapman Freeborn group was established in the UK in 1973. The company has offices worldwide including North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. In the cargo market, Chapman Freeborn Airchartering specialises in the charter and lease of aircraft for a wide-ranging customer base, including freight forwarders, multinational corporations, governments, humanitarian agencies and a host of industries around the globe. In addition to freight services, Chapman Freeborn offers specialist passenger services including private jet charters for executive travel and large aircraft for crew rotations and international group travel.

Chapman Freeborn is a family member of Avia Solutions Group, the largest aerospace business group from Central & Eastern Europe with 83 offices and production sites providing aviation services and solutions worldwide.

Avia Solutions Group unites a team of more than 7000 professionals, providing state-of-the-art solutions to the aviation industry and beyond.

For more information about Avia Solutions Group, please visit and



Pharmaceutical transportation is no simple task. Particularly this year, the pharmaceutical supply chain has experienced a dynamic shift in operations amid the pandemic. Global players are challenged with the new protocols in place demanding more from shippers while navigating FDA regulations and keeping workers safe. Technology has undoubtedly played a vital role in overcoming recent challenges in the sector while supporting a custom approach for customer needs. The challenges of today are indicators of technological advancements needed for the near future in pharmaceutical goods transportation.

“COVID-19 has changed the way we fundamentally view complex supply chain ecosystems,” explains Gerry Fama, vice president, Europe Sales at BDP International. “As such, BDP’s vision for service in the pharma sector is increasingly dynamic: In a fast, and sometimes unpredictable environment, the pharmaceutical industry needs 3PL and 4PL partners who can manage new and anticipate future challenges. For this reason, BDP aspires to be a proactive partner to orchestrate the entire supply chain and to provide solutions tailored to suit customer needs.”

Fama continues, “Our engineering solution team has the ability to analyze customer needs and guide them in development projects, from the onset of the design phase to final implementation. The goal is to generate integrated solutions that allow customers to have full product visibility along the entire supply chain. Investing in technology is no longer a ‘nice to have,’ but an imperative for those who, like BDP, want to proactively anticipate the new challenges of the pharmaceutical transport and logistics market.”

Technology in today’s market must go beyond gathering data and raise the bar for preparing, transporting, maintenance and communication during each step of the process. Not every industry player will be up for the challenge, but those that do step up to the plate will position themselves in the market as leaders of change in an unpredictable environment while setting the standard for the new future in strategizing and regulation.

“In the coming years, the pharmaceutical supply chain will face new challenges that will have repercussions on all aspects of the distribution chain,” Fama says. “The new rules for the storage and transport of medicines, and the advent of serialization will condition distribution choices and logistical outsourcing strategies. The development of new commercial strategies focused on the patient, the digitalization of the channel, the adoption of the new rules for the storage and transport of medicines, together with the advent of ‘serialization,’ already require a rethinking of production and logistic processes, as well as the outsourcing choices.

“Process automation and data management using new software have proven to be successful strategies for pharmaceutical logistics management. It is essential to evaluate multiple storage and distribution solutions (automatic and digital) to operate in the drug distribution chain.”

Before changes can be implemented in transportation technology, Fama emphasizes the importance of analysis and cost when selecting logistics partners. The interesting thing about pharmaceutical transportation is the cost model originally developed by pharmaceutical companies and how this model was intended. The recent (and potential future changes) in transportation are not considered in this original model. It is imperative that transparency and up-to-date data are communicated when considering ways to modify this model to better support operations.

“The budget intended for logistics by pharmaceutical companies consists of two main cost items: warehouse (storage and preparation of goods) and transport,” Fama explains. “Given the recent regulatory developments (for example in the field of safety and conservation) and the introduction of increasingly specialized products, the weight of transport has increased in recent years, reaching about 55 percent of the overall logistics cost. This increase, inserted in a cost-saving context led by the headquarters of the main pharmaceutical companies, has not changed the average incidence on the logistics costs turnover (remained equal to about 0.5 percent) or on the profits (1 percent).

“Also, for this reason, it is essential to select a logistics partner who can assist with a detailed analysis (costs vs. benefits) before modifying any existing transport and logistics model.”

Where do regulations fit into this equation? Technology paired with pharma transportation is helpful but a tedious process in terms of compliance, depending on location and partners involved. There are ways to ensure your company’s efforts for efficient, compliant transport are on-par with regulations, such as special certifications. Not only do these certifications support the timely and safe delivery of pharma products but serve as a teaching tool for education on technical processes.

“Since 2013, the legislation, especially in air transport, has become more stringent and the European community has issued new guidelines for best practices of distributing the drug for human use (GDP),” Fama says. “These guidelines ensure that all participants involved in the pharmaceutical transport logistics chain are fully compliant. The IATA (International Air Transport Association) has created a special certification called CEIV Pharma (Center of Excellence for Independent Validators) which applies the principles of the GDP and transforms them into requirements of excellence for the air transport of pharmaceutical shipments.

“The certification aims to increase technical knowledge and increase the quality of pharmaceutical transport in the air sector and is based on the training and control by validators external to the IATA who have the task of verifying whether the companies work according to the lines GDP guide.”

Advancing technology applications in any industry requires an honest assessment of the attainability of a seamless transition. The current market challenges create more barriers for technology to become deeply integrated into all processes. Technology is not the only answer needed for improving operations–whether that be transporting pharmaceuticals or other methods of shipping within the supply chain. Costs and risks will always be a factor, regardless of the technology at hand.

“There are few sectors that can boast such a vast technological and regulatory intervention that has improved and disciplined the most intimately operational aspects on several occasions, just to name a few, the constraints on delivery deadlines, minimum availability, exclusive transport obligation, in compliance with the rules of good distribution, to the most recent provisions in terms of drug traceability,” Fama says. “New technologies support the reduction and management of risks, for complete visibility of the global distribution chain: the timely intervention of the logistics operator manages to avoid or sometimes mitigate the unexpected costs caused by an anachronistic and obsolete management of logistics and transport.”

The focus of shipping pharmaceuticals should always be to ensure the products are not compromised or delayed in getting to the patient. The patient will always be at the receiving end of the process.


Gerry Fama, Vice President, Europe Sales, BDP International

Gerry Fama has been in the logistics and freight forwarding industry for more than 30 years. He has held various managerial roles within some of the largest multinationals in the international forwarding sector (Emery, FedEx, UPS and Panalpina). Since 2011, he has been a member of the American Chamber of Commerce. Gerry joined BDP in 2014, developing sales roles in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North and South America. He is currently based in Milan and can be reached at