Biopharmaceutical Cold Chain: Investing in the MENA Region

Cold Chain IQ

Growth in the pharmaceutical industry means that the worldwide cold chain industry is expected to be worth $6.6 billion (£4.2 billion) by the year 2011. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has played a large part in this growth and pharmaceutical industry companies have been investing in their cold chain operation in the region.

Demand for Cold Chain facilities is only likely to rise in the coming years, as increases have been seen in the vaccine market, in part due to the spread of the H1N1 virus.

Figures from the Cold Chain Biopharma Logistics Sourcebook 2010 state that by the year 2014 seven of the top ten pharmaceutical products will require cold chain handling and regulations surrounding the monitoring and temperature controls of cold chain handling are likely to increase.

"This activity is being driven by a combination of where the biopharma industry is going - toward more biologics – and the global industry's push into emerging markets," Nick Basta, co-author of the report and editor-in-chief of Pharmaceutical Commerce, was quoted by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers as saying.

He added: "Compliance officers and supply chain managers have many choices and need not assume any longer that just because a shipment might be worth millions of dollars, it needs to have high-expense logistics service.


Cold chain facilities in MENA

In 2008, Danzas AEI Emirates opened the largest supply Chain facility, for use by the pharmaceutical industry among others, in the Middle East region in the Jebel Ali Free Zone in Dubai.

The company said that 80,000 sq m facility was ideally located in the Gulf region, as it provides a gateway to many of the world's major markets and can accommodate the rapid growth occurring in the Indian region.

Favourable conditions within Jafza also helped to enhance the appeal of the region as the only free-zone located between an airport and a seaport. The facility includes an 8,000 sq m life sciences distribution centre for use by the pharmaceutical industry.

Enver Moretti, chief executive officer and president of the Europe, Mediterranean and Asia region, DHL Global Forwarding said: "There is increasing need for innovative logistics solutions that add real value, offer flexibility and maximise margin.

"I see a definite trend for the larger multi-nationals to both outsource and expect the same standards, processes, behaviours and performance throughout their global networks."

Importance of temperature management in the pharmaceutical industry

The varying temperature experienced within the MENA region make effective monitoring of the cold chain extremely important.

Research from Harris Interactive revealed that more than half of physicians in the United States are concerned about the potentially harmful side effects, which could occur if products are damaged by heat.

Primary care physicians and paediatricians said they were most concerned about virus outbreaks that could occur if vaccines are not stored at the correct temperature, which the pharmaceutical industry should take note of.

Donald T Allegra, MD, fellow of the American College of Physicians, said: "With advancements in science and medicine trending toward increased use of biologics, vaccines and other temperature-sensitive medicines, we need far more vigilance around the cold chain to protect life-saving medicines from temperature abuse."

Around 70 per cent of the physicians involved in the study said they had experienced a cold chain break during their career and many expressed a lack of confidence in the cold chain process. Usually the more complicated the transportation of the product, the more likely it is that there would be a breach.

However, the technology used by the pharmaceutical industry to monitor the cold chain changes regularly, according to LifeConEx, which recently launched a new product that looks at environmental impacts on a shipment by mapping trade lanes.

David Y Bang, chief executive officer of the cold chain solutions provider, said: "As technology continues to be more readily available, it will not remain a competitive advantage for a long period of time, maybe six to twelve months at the very most.

"Technology is ever-changing and constantly improving itself."

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