Cold Chain Management in China

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Cold Chain Management In China

China's importance within the global pharmaceutical industry is growing. By the year 2013, China is expected to be the third largest pharmaceutical market in the world, as more and more pharma companies are attracted to a market where both clinical trials and drug development are cheaper.

This growth comes at a time when many of the top pharmaceutical products are expected to require cold chain handling. Figures from the Cold Chain Biopharma Logistics Sourcebook 2010 suggested that by the year 2014, seven of the top ten pharmaceutical products will require cold chain distribution.

The Sourcebook also predicts that regulators will increase, which could present challenges for the underdeveloped Asian cold chain market and the growing levels of cross-border transportation.

Industry growth

According to Alen Yan, general manager for World Courier, clinical trials in China can cost 30 per cent less than in the United States, and drug development can be just 10 per cent of the price it would be in the west.

"The biopharma industry in China has exploded by 20 per cent in just the past five years," he added. "But while it may be very cost effective to conduct clinical trials here, practitioners must understand the challenges of doing business in China."


This growth requires a supporting infrastructure which allows pharmaceutical companies to transport drugs and related equipment in a safe, timely and cost-effective manner.

Particular growth in the cold chain market is expected to be seen in Asia, where the Biopharma Cold Chain Sourcebook 2010 states the market will increase, by 50 per cent on 2008 levels, by 2011. This outstrips worldwide growth of 33 per cent.

Transportation of vaccines, largely for distribution by philanthropic organisations, around the Asian continent was said to be one of the main drivers of this growth.

However, Pharmaceutical Commerce warned that the growth of the cold chain industry "will not necessarily be linear" with the number of vaccines being distributed.

"There are efforts to package vaccines more efficiently to expedite their transportation, and to develop room-temperature versions of some," it explained.


Cold chain management in China presents its own challenges. World Courier launched operations in China in 2008, which allow for temperature-controlled transportation between more than 30 of the major Chinese cities.

Henning Voss, director for World Courier, North Asia, described the situation in China as complex, which meant, up until a couple of years ago, the needs of large pharmaceutical companies wishing to operate in China were not being adequately addressed.

"In addition, domestic transport companies do not yet fully understand the many international standards at play in handling these types of shipments," Voss said.

Logistics company DHL has been expanding its operations in China in order to help pharma operators in the country address the challenges presented by "the increasingly sophisticated needs of life science and healthcare customers in Asia Pacifc."

The firm opened a 2,000 sq ft temperature-controlled warehouse at Shanghai, Pudong International airport in May 2009. The site added to the company's existing operations in China which included two 2°C to 8°C cool rooms in DHL's Global Forwarding PVG Airport Warehouse and two more large, air-conditioned warehouses at Waigaoqiao Bonded Areaand Songjiang Jiuting Non-bonded Area.

DHL said that the opening of the warehouse reflected the continued positive growth expected in the Chinese pharmaceutical market.

Steve Huang, managing director, DHL Global Forwarding China, said: "The Life Science and healthcare industry in China holds its own despite the global economic crisis. We are optimistic that this sector will continue to offer promising growth."

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