Designing an agile cold chain to export biologics at short notice

Priyatanu Pathak National Sales Manager

A fast-growing Asian pharmaceutical company needed a reliable cold chain solution for shipping a sensitive biosimilar product across the world. The manufacturing process and product characteristics meant that shipments had to be booked at very short notice. Furthermore, the company required a solution that could keep product integrity intact, despite high temperatures and infrastructure challenges in the domestic market as well as varying temperatures at the different destinations. Here is how they solved the challenge.

New pressures on the pharmaceutical cold chain

Over the years, the pharmaceutical cold chain has evolved to something completely different from putting pharmaceuticals in a box and loading them onto a plane. Demand can fluctuate substantially, meaning that the pharmaceutical cold chain must be flexible in order to quickly respond to changing volumes. Furthermore, sensitive biologics with a short shelf life make up an increasingly larger share of pharmaceuticals shipped, which increases the requirements on the cold chain solution. Planning, streamlined processes, and agile service providers are a vital necessity for successful and cost-efficient shipments.

The challenge: Shipping large volumes of a sensitive product at short notice

For the Asian pharmaceutical company, safety and product integrity are exceptionally important. Some of its products must be kept at 15-25°C, other products at 2-8°C, whereas some products must be kept at cryogenic (-70C or colder depending on the stability of the shipment solution) temperatures. For the company’s biosimilar product, that has to be kept at a temperature range of 2-8°C, transport must often be booked at very short notice, putting pressure on freight forwarders, airline carriers, and other service providers that cater to the large export volume customers.

In addition, the domestic infrastructure can sometimes be a bit of a challenge and products are shipped to countries in vastly different climate zones. Hence, the cold chain packaging solution must tolerate various environmental stresses. It was vital for the company to find a service provider that could advise on different alternatives and assist in developing a cold chain solution that could keep the integrity of the biological product intact.


The solution: Active containers and close collaboration across the cold chain

The company started cooperating with Envirotainer a few years ago. At the time, the company did not ship biological products, but today the company partners with Envirotainer for shipping both biologics and generic products.

The company ships its temperature-sensitive biosimilar product with the RAP e2 containers from Envirotainer. These active containers have electrical heating and cooling technology and can therefore handle both colder and warmer ambient temperatures. With a 100% availability of containers at short notice, and Envirotainer’s local sales team ready to help, shipments have run smoothly by collaborating with forwarders and airlines and working on creative ways to load the containers efficiently. The collaboration has also included working on the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and training the various stakeholders – forwarders, ground handlers, airline carriers, as well as the company’s own logistics team – on the containers.

The result: Improved quality of the pharmaceutical cold chain

The cold chain solution provided met the company’s high requirements regarding safety and product integrity. According to company representatives, the quality of the cold chain has improved after changing to Envirotainer. Envirotainer has always fulfilled the requirements and units have arrived on time, which has been a great help for the company.

As stated by company representatives, Envirotainer has been very helpful in the whole process with different carriers and has made the communication with carriers and forwarders run smoother. In addition, the company has gained understanding and knowledge of the biological product over the years and with Envirotainer, they have an engaged and knowledgeable solutions provider.

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