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The Rules for Shipping Pharmaceuticals

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November 18, 2022
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The Rules for Shipping Pharmaceuticals
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We’ve already written about the best practices for shipping medical equipment, which requires careful planning, coordination, and handling due to the sensitivity and value of the commodity. Much of the same is true when shipping for the pharmaceutical industry, which is obviously very much tied to the healthcare industry. It aids in the production and distribution of raw materials and the chemical compounds that are necessary for many of the ingredients used for an array of products like creams, gels, capsules, and other cosmetics, among other things.

Pharmaceutical companies also ship essential everyday medicines with familiar brands found over-the-counter and through prescription, as well as a whole line of crucial vaccines. Most pharmaceutical shipments require stringent cold chain management, as most products are temperature-controlled. Much like the healthcare and medical industries, the pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated; products shipped must be handled properly to reduce the risks of spoilage or load rejection upon delivery.

The global pandemic has highlighted just how crucial it is for pharmaceutical products to get replenished immediately to ensure the sick and vulnerable of our society get the essential treatment they need to improve their wellness. Pharmaceutical companies should partner with a transportation provider with decades of experience hauling exclusively for the healthcare and wellness industry. This article looks at some best practices and rules for shipping pharmaceutical goods.

What is the Cold Chain?

Shippers who move sensitive temperature-controlled products operate in what the industry refers to as a cold chain. The organized handling and coordinated movement of refrigerated products with controlled points of custody ensure temperature variances do not exceed levels that might jeopardize the integrity or quality of the product. In other words, the cold chain serves as a checkpoint that ensures the correct temperature remains constant at every single touch point within the logistics of a shipment.

Suppose a batch of medicines is ready to be shipped from a major pharmaceutical company. In that case, the distribution center will have a temperature-controlled warehouse facility for storing the product before arranged transport arrives to move it to the next destination. A properly functioning cold chain would usually have temperature safeguards in the facility to validate the commodity’s correct temperature from the offset.

Once a refrigerated truck arrives to haul the product to the next destination, a worker would likely check to verify if the truck’s reefer setting is set to the correct temperature for transporting the goods to the next destination. The 3PL partner will likely monitor this situation, as well. Once the product is loaded onto the truck, the carrier and operations personnel will ensure the reefer temperature is at the correct setting. At the same time, the driver transports the commodity to the next delivery point. At delivery, the receiver will check to verify the product did not endure any temperature variances during transportation. This is a high-level explanation of a cold chain.

What is Pharmaceutical Cold Chain Management?

Cold chain management is the administrative side of ensuring that all phases of a product’s movement through storage, transportation, and delivery adhere to the safe temperature levels and regulatory requirements necessary for moving pharmaceutical supplies. Shipping managers usually require that their transportation providers offer technologies that offer real-time visibility on all shipments. This level of transparency helps mitigate the chances of temperature variances that can cause spoilage, product rejection, and other serious financial damages that may occur if a temperature-sensitive commodity gets transported at the wrong temperature.

The Difference Between Cold Chain and Supply Chain

The biggest difference between a traditional supply chain and a cold chain is the amount of paperwork and regular monitoring required for shipping a load. Thermally shipped products need special care and handling. Shippers and logistics partners generally spend more time worrying about the status of temperature-controlled freight versus commodities that can be transported in a regular dry van. Cold chain shipments need much more communication between warehouse personnel, carrier partners, brokers, truck drivers, and receivers. Centralizing these touchpoints will help ensure shippers know the status of their loads at all times.

Equipment Needed to Ship Pharmaceutical Products

For starters, it depends on the commodity and whether the product is hazardous or temperature-controlled. Not all pharmaceutical products require reefers or refrigerated transportation; however, when shipping time-sensitive and perishable goods, the carrier must have a truck that accommodates the proper handling of the commodity. Some products, like steroids, vaccines, insulin, chemotherapy medicines, and topical creams, have specific storage requirements that require refrigerated transport. Pharmaceutical shippers often look to partner with carriers that offer a range of services and equipment to meet the individual needs of their customers.

What Regulations Need to be Followed to Ship Pharmaceuticals? 

The FDA lists a set of regulations for the current model handling of manufactured pharmaceutical goods, as well as proper delivery practices needed. However, this recommendation is just an overview and will depend on the specific needs guided by the individual shipper moving the goods. Ideally, pharmaceutical shippers will want to partner with a transportation provider that has deep knowledge and experience working with the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

What Happens if Pharmaceutical Products are not Shipped Correctly?

Pharmaceutical products risk being exposed to the elements if shipped incorrectly. A loading delay, a temperature excursion during transportation, or perhaps intense exposure to sunlight may cause harm to the products. The longer that pharmaceutical goods are left sitting in a supply chain, the greater the control problem and likelihood that the product might get damaged. Most pharmaceutical shippers have detailed cold chain labels sent as manifests to the carrier partner to ensure proper handling throughout the product’s distribution. Full visibility and tracking options help alleviate potential issues exposing pharmaceutical commodities to unsuitable environments. 3PL partners are usually experienced with the proper handling of a variety of commodities and can help minimize the risk of shipping high-value cargo with sensitive requirements.

The Threat of Cargo Theft in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Though not as common as other roadside incidents, such as accidents, cargo theft is a problem that occurs throughout the world. Especially when it comes to shipping highly valued commodities like pharmaceuticals. Drugs are high-valued products, and they can be very lucrative for criminal enterprises looking to find a commodity that is easier to sell and unload, unlike a truckload of used tires. The pharmaceutical industry safeguards against theft by partnering with transportation providers that offer GPS tracking technologies and APIs that connect seamlessly to existing TMS software. This interoperability gives shippers unprecedented visibility to ensure each shipment runs as smoothly as possible.

Wicker Park makes Shipping Pharmaceutical Goods Easy

Shipping pharmaceutical goods shouldn’t be a hard pill to swallow. The best way to ensure proper handling of any pharmaceutical shipments is to find a logistics company that provides customizable services that fulfill your company’s unique needs. Shipping time-sensitive commodities like medical equipment and pharmaceutical goods has never been easier when shipping with Wicker Park Logistics. Wicker Park Logistics offers cutting-edge technologies and a dedicated team of experts with deep knowledge in handling the specific needs of shippers in the pharmaceutical industry. That’s why hundreds of pharmaceutical companies rely on Wicker Park Logistics to help optimize their cold chain, ensuring the proper handling of their time-sensitive goods and making sure that each delivery is on-time and in full. Contact Wicker Park Logistics today!

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