Pharma Not Flowers: Cold Chain Management in Asia

Pharma IQ

Cold Chain Management in Asia

Asian countries are rapidly emerging as key destinations for the global pharmaceutical industry, therefore it seems only logical that services to support these functions are growing in demand.

Cold chains are playing an increasingly important role as more biopharmaceuticals and drugs requiring temperature controlled distribution are developed.

Further to this the need for comprehensive vaccination programmes within a number of Asian countries to ensure public health means non-governmental organisations, such as the World Health Organisation, take an interest in cold chain provision.

With Asia's sheer geographical size and an increasing understanding of the strict standards placed on Western pharmaceuticals, the cold chain is one area where many countries are looking to develop.

K V Subramaniam, president and chief executive officer of Reliance Life Sciences, part of India's largest private sector enterprise, told Express Pharma: "Logistics is a vital component in the entire supply chain of pharmaceutical and biotech products. In nutshell, logistics deserves the same level of importance as any other function."

Investing in the cold chain

Airports are generally considered to be one of the most likely locations for a breach within the cold chain to occur and this is an area where India has been improving its provision as it continues to attract an increasing number of multi-national corporations.

Hyderabad International Airport in late 2010 opened its temperature controlled facility which is "the country's first airport based temperature controlled facility and will now greatly assist the local pharma industry meet the stringent requirements of global regulatory authorities."

The facility aims to ensure "seamless handling" throughout the cold chain thanks to its dedicated truck docks and floor level weighing. It also includes a sterile environment for active pharmaceutical ingredients and vaccines.

Paul Smith, chief executive of Hyderabad Menzies Air Cargo Pvt Ltd, said it expected to see growth of 25 percent per annum following the opening of the facility.

On the wider scale, however, airports were said to be onearea where cold chain provision was lacking. Key places for cold chain distribution infrastructure are locations such as Singapore, where UPS recently opened a new facility, which are key hubs for air travel and enable connections to other places in Asia.

End-to-end solutions

M Ajaz, Director, East West Freight Carriers, told Express Pharma, that while the travel hubs in Asia have the cold chain facilities, they are generally catered towards perishable goods and flowers than pharma.

He added while India has the various components of the cold chain, they are not joined together.

"The whole chain is still fragmented and why wouldn't it be, we haven't been awarded an industry status yet and are yet to receive government incentives. This has restricted a freight forwarder to come out of the usual and think and develop differently," Ajaz said.

With regulatory compliance such a key issue for the pharmaceutical industry, it is integrated services which can offer a secure cold chain that are more likely to be favoured, industry players believe.

"[A] clear industry trend is driving companies to look for more global solutions and deeper supply chain partnerships," Bill Hook, vice president, global strategy, UPS Healthcare Logistics, said.

Regulation within the area of cold chains is expected to tighten as more manufacturing operations and clinical trials shift to emerging markets in Asia.