Biopharmaceutical drugs can be extremely temperature sensitive and require a great deal of care during transportation. In addition, shippers must comply with an ever-increasing number of regulations for cross-border moves. Of all the areas that need to be addressed, says Derifield, the most important is the standardization of regulatory activity. Such a development, he says, "will help dramatically to ensure that all products are tested and evaluated on an even keel."
Another item on the industry's agenda is the need for better communications between the pharmaceutical industry and its supply base. Consolidation of manufacturers will help, Derifield says, adding that "many groups are trying to fill this void."
Finally, there's the changing nature of the supply base itself. Many biopharmaceuticals are coming off patent, setting the stage for a wave of innovation by suppliers. Producers must devise fresh strategies for managing product lifecycles.
Derifield praises the industry for its efforts to reduce costs, through tighter partnerships with suppliers. At the same time, producers are working hard to meet new "green" requirements, partly through the use of less packaging materials. The challenge, he says, lies in achieving this goal while retaining enough insulation to protect sensitive products.
Derifield reviews some of the new methods for monitoring and preserving the condition of drugs in transit. Active solutions, such as those requiring batteries or plug-ins, are beginning to lose popularity because of concerns over battery life and broken connections. Materials made out of passive technology, by contrast, "seems to be the trend." Examples include the greater use of mixed materials and vacuum panels. "There are not that many true new products or material offerings," he says, noting instead "a fine-tuning of existing products to be more efficient." Thermal convection, for example, allows shippers to make more efficient use of the energy placed in the container. When they can ship more product, Derifield says, "the cost per dose goes down."
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