By Michael Auerbach, Editor in Chief
The pharmaceutical industry faces many challenges: from keeping the pipeline stocked with new compounds, to R&D, regulatory issues and approvals, and finally manufacturing.
One area that is getting more attention is the supply chain. There are many reasons for the increased attention to the pharmaceutical supply chain. Perhaps the first is security. Pharma companies need to ensure their products make it to their final destination. Issues such as counterfeiting and product diversion/theft have put increased pressure on the industry to lock down their supply chains to prevent product tampering along the supply route.
Another issue for pharma supply chains is the issue of ensuring product quality. Many drugs have to be stored/shipped within a set temperature/humidity range. Much has been written about the pharmaceutical cold chain – from strategies to ensure proper transit at required temperatures, modes of transportation, to meeting international shipping regulations.
But, let’s say you have mastered all of these issues. Your supply chain works; you can get your product to its final destination – whether it’s a conventional pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, mail order, or specialty pharmacy. Then what?
The issue at hand is temperature control. All pharmacies have cold storage capabilities. And if it’s a delivery from a hospital pharmacy to a patient, or a consumer picking up an Rx at CVS – the time/distance from cold storage to administration or home (usually) falls well within acceptable ranges.
Of course there are some medications that can’t be picked up at most pharmacies. For these products, pharmacies have set up specialty services for customers. For example, the medication I’m on for psoriasis is not available through my local CVS, it has to be shipped to me from CVS’ Specialty Pharmacy business. I’ve found this service to be quite efficient. I get notified when I need a refill. I get shipping updates, and the meds arrive in a Styrofoam box packed in dry ice – all nice and cold – just like the manufacturer intended. From there it goes right into my fridge.
But there’s one final twist to this product pathway.
What do you do if you need to take your meds with you? Dorm room size refrigerators are usually not considered “carry-on” by most major airlines – so how do you keep your meds a part of the cold chain when you travel?
I faced this conundrum recently while on vacation. Prior to this vacation, my trips had worked out that I could take my “cold” meds either before or after my travel. Not so with this vacation. I would be up early, out of the house, to the airport, three hour plane flight, then a few more hours before I reached my final destination, where I could put my meds into the room fridge.
Most cold packs use an ice pack or other cold source – but the length of time they stayed cold was limited and bumped up against how long my travel time was going to take.
Luckily, I stumbled upon a product specifically designed for this situation. This product was small enough to fit easily in a carry-on, and used a gel substance to maintain cold temperatures for a very long time.
My cold chain supply problem was solved!
If you’ve had any issues, problems, or successes dealing with travelling with meds, I would love to hear about your experiences.
Thanks for listening.