How do you get insulin to remote countries like Eritrea, Tajikistan, and Pakistan? Or how about delivering life-saving blood-clotting hemophilia treatments to places to the barrios of Puerto Rico, El Salvador, and Jamaica? Or cancer-fighting drugs to places like Malawi, Belarus, and Syria?
Direct Relief knows how.
Direct Relief is self-described as "a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay."
The cold chain for the pharmaceutical industry does not simply act as a supply chain, but also as a lifeline. Like the delivery of other commodities, it's under enhancement with digitization, data collection, remote inventory management, and transportation management platforms. This cold chain is responsible for high-value pharmaceutical products that are often critical to human health.
Many are getting onboard with the heightened focus on a temperature-sensitive supply chain to serve the healthcare industries. UPS for example, recently announced the formation of a new group within its corporate structured, a dedicated Healthcare and Life Sciences (HCLS) unit, dedicated to healthcare and life science customers. They plan to offer tech-enabled sensing and monitoring solutions to help with the highest-quality visibility, tracking and management options for critical healthcare shipments.
According to a Deloitte report, monitoring temperature and product integrity is a crucial component for clinical supply organizations.
"Existing methods of collecting and manually assessing temperature data are labor-intensive and time-consuming; a delay in temperature excursion analysis may lead to supply chain disruption and impact patient safety. Internet-connected sensors capture and record investigational drug temperature data in real time to enable rapid and accurate product quality evaluations. Using this technology opens the door for future possibilities in configuring product specific adjudication algorithms and recording site performance for knowledge-driven improvements in future clinical trials.”
Deloitte predicts that the supply chain is "at the center of healthcare delivery - not just supplying a product, but delivering a better patient experience."
Deloitte goes so far as to state that the supply chain is where gains may be found in the future arc of the biopharma industry: "Our research and client experience suggest that understanding current clinical supply chain inefficiencies, identifying an organization’s digital maturity level, and focusing on specific capability needs can aid in deciding which technologies should be implemented, and in what order to move the process forward."
And moving forward it is. Take the case of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy. It's a rather technical term that describes the creation of T cells - which are used in the human body to fight illness. The T cells of a cancer patient are extracted and shipped, in cold conditions, to an actual facility that, via human genetics, creates new T cells and returns them to the cancer patient. Such a process can save their life. The entire event relies on a robust and vigilant supply chain. The supply chain must be agile and reliable, and provide the many stakeholders with visibility to see the whereabouts of the T cells, properly maintained at a cold temperature, in transit. The cancer patient can depend upon this supply chain dynamic.
Now and into the future, organizations like Direct Relief will grow their service and capability via their cold storage facilities, packing, and transport. Direct Relief's three-story 2800 square foot cold storage facility allowed them to ship 1,462 cold chain shipments with a wholesale value of $203 million, 1,462 cold chain shipments valued at $203 million, in just the first half of 2019, doubling last year's volume. In this industry, temperature-controlled transport and storage is disruptive in a different context than we ordinarily think of when we say the word regarding technology.
For the pharmaceutical industry, the cold chain helps save lives. It connects healthcare solutions for the sick. It works.
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