The coronavirus pandemic has put tremendous pressure on the pharmaceutical industry. The whole world is anxiously waiting for it to discover, produce, and deliver a vaccine so that life can revert back to normal.
The industry knows that this is a tremendous challenge. Aside from the fact that coming up with a vaccine in such a short time is unprecedented, the logistical challenge of delivering vaccines to billions of people worldwide is also quite enormous. Vaccines typically have to be kept under controlled conditions especially during transport.
Unfortunately, the industry still continues to deal with issues in its temperature-controlled supply chains or “cold chains.” Temperature excursions, or the exposure of products to climate outside their required storage conditions, happen quite frequently. These lead to products getting damaged or spoiled even before they reach customers.
Tech startup Logmore looks to help pharma companies improve their supply chains through better logistics monitoring. The company provides a scalable and cost-efficient data logging service that utilizes dynamic QR tags that can monitor the climate conditions to which individual parcels are subjected as they are being stored and transported. Scanned monitoring data is also sent to the cloud and can be accessed by supply chain stakeholders through a web portal.
In this TechBullion interview, Logmore CEO and cofounder Janne Juhala will discuss the problems that the pharma supply chains encounter and how better logistics monitoring can make them more capable of delivering safe and effective products to customers.
Waste looks to be one of the main problems in supply chains in general. Is this the same for pharma? What are the common pain points in their supply chains?
The pharmaceutical logistics industry has it pretty rough. Vaccines and such tend to be vulnerable to a lot of different environmental factors. Roughly a third of all shipped pharmaceuticals are damaged before they reach the consumer. The exact numbers range between 20% and 40%, depending on the source.
Worldwide different authorities and organizations work to make sure that the end-user doesn’t receive any of those spoilt goods. From the World Health Organization to national health services, these organizations set strict regulations that all companies dealing with pharmaceuticals in their area have to comply with. For instance, in the EU, all medication packaging is required to come with a unique serial number and identifier to maximize traceability.
Almost every country has its own set of regulations concerning pharma products. In the US, there are the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, and other federal regulations. The good of the consumer is an important focus, but a lot to keep track of for companies.
Why is the effectiveness of pharma supply chains such a concern?
Damaged vaccines can become ineffective or even harmful to the user. That alone is a big enough reason to make sure that no spoiled products make it to the end-user, whose life might depend on the medication.
In addition to that, all the spoilage really adds up. Unusable products need to be disposed of, which often causes environmental harm. To consider a hard, cold “corporate” worldview, every single mishap with products that led to issues is a hit on customer trust and could even lead to legal repercussions.
Of course, all spoilage is an economical loss as well.
Can monitoring solutions curb these issues? How does your solution help pharma supply chains?
Monitoring makes it easy to account for regulations and requirements. Collecting condition data into a cloud database over time lets companies keep records of years’ worth of data while also being able to analyze that data for their own use.
Let’s say a federal agency contacts your company after a large-scale issue with certain medical products. When you’ve kept track of all the temperature variances, you can easily show them the reports. When you haven’t, the investigations are bound to take a while and could even have additional repercussions if you don’t have anything to show, depending on your location.
The data can also be used to improve your own operations, and I personally think that’s the main point here. Collecting data over time allows you to recognize patterns. Seeing those patterns makes it easier to methodically eliminate negative ones and reinforce positive ones. A carrier not delivering quality-wise? Time to switch to another. A service provider performing particularly well? You can focus more of your operations there.
Our Logmore QR data loggers make that monitoring as easy as it can be. Our loggers’ long battery life combined with annual calibrations that require no action from the user makes the data collection process seamless. Our cloud service also generates reports automatically and even alerts when temperature limits have been breached as per use case, once the user uploads collected data with just the simple scan of the QR code.
What important features should pharma companies look for in their monitoring systems?
For pharma companies especially, reliability and affordability are particularly important. The data coverage has to be seamless for every single product, which means the number of loggers can become immense depending on the company operations scale. In the scale of the biggest pharma producers and retailers, having a logger in every package can become expensive, and the data management almost impossible, if you don’t prioritize scalability.
Not too long ago the industry standard was to manually connect a logger with a cable to a PC. The data is then exported, combined, and emailed to the person keeping track of all the data. That person would typically have hundreds of coded folders full of condition data. Imagine going through that amount of information, looking for a single file. The sad thing is that, for a lot of companies, this is still the reality.
Many are looking to the pharma industry to end the pandemic. How vital will effective supply chains be in solving the current crisis?
Not knowing how sensitive the vaccines will be, it’s hard to evaluate how accurate and covering the data will need to be. It’s still safe to say that the requirements will be as strict as they are for existing vaccines. Seeing how serious the pandemic is, even more care should be taken than usual, even in the already delicate world of pharmaceuticals.
Effective supply chains are a vital part of our everyday life in any case. Considering how same-day deliveries have become a normal thing to have, not receiving even nonessentials in a matter of a day or two leaves customers unsatisfied.
What role does your company expect to have in the near future?
We’re striving to make it as easy as possible for pharma companies of all sizes to keep track of what happens to their products throughout the product lifecycle. Currently, our service is so affordable that there can be a Logmore data logger in every cardboard box containing pharmaceuticals. Soon enough there can be a logger in every single package.
For more information, visit the website: Logmore.com