Strategic investment in infrastructure is essential for pharma logistics providers to survive. This is according to the Staying Ahead in Temperature-Controlled Cargo Handling panel recently held at the Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference in Hong Kong. Zuellig Pharma Corporate Head of Quality Assurance Brett Marshall joined other quality and logistics experts to discuss trends, regulatory developments and the steps all players need to take to stay ahead.

Commenting on the trends shaping the regional healthcare landscape, Mr Marshall said: “Changing demographics, increased government spending and education are driving demand for high quality healthcare, particularly here in Asia. At the same time, evolving regulatory guidelines and shifting drug portfolios are making temperature management more important than ever before.”

7 of the world’s top 10 selling drugs will require cold chain management between 2ºC and 8ºC by 2018 and Mr Marshall said that this is only one of the drivers behind the fast-growing demand for effective temperature management solutions.

“The pace of regulatory change is rapid,” he said. “Changes to the European Union Good Distribution Practice (GDP) guidelines in 2013 highlighted the need to store and transport products in line with what is stated on the packaging label. This has increased the focus on controlled room temperature products and is driving demand for air conditioned freight and storage.”

Mr. Gert-Jan Jansen, Managing Director of Seabury Group, highlighted during the discussion that up to 87% of the product transported across the top 5 Asian pharma trade lanes requires temperature management. He added that airlines, airports and handlers will need to adapt their capabilities to service this growth market in the future.

Ms Yvonne Ho, General Manager, Hong Kong & Macau, IATA, introduced IATA’s CEIV Certification program for Pharmaceutical Logistics which sees stakeholders from the airfreight community working together to achieve certification to a common standard of Good Distribution Practice for pharmaceutical products in the operation of services and facilities. Hong Kong International Airport is undergoing certification currently with a number of other airports around the Asia Pacific region, and Changi Airport, Singapore and Pudong Airport, Shanghai already receiving their certification.

Mr Marshall agreed: “This is where investment in temperature management infrastructure and capability development is so critical. All players across the supply chain – from the manufacturer to the healthcare provider – need to ensure there are measures in place to ensure the integrity of temperature sensitive products. This requires forward-thinking investment in infrastructure.”

Some markets in Asia are taking steps to manage this risk. Singapore, for example, has established a dedicated cold chain facility at Changi airport. Temperature-sensitive products are unloaded into this facility within 45 minutes of the plane landing to ensure that their temperature integrity is maintained.

“The industry is also investing in new solutions to mitigate the risk of temperature excursions,” said Mr Marshall. “Zuellig Pharma has developed a new packaging solution that extends the holding time of temperature-sensitive products from 2 days with traditional systems to 5 days. We have also recently opened a new state-of-the-art warehouse in Ho Chi Minh City that utilizes sophisticated solar technology and thermal isolation systems to ensure product integrity.” Mr Marshall was joined on the panel by Mr Gert-Jan Jansen as moderator, Mr Clement Lam, Director, John Swire & Sons (HK) Ltd. and Mr Frosti Lau, General Manager Cargo Services, Cathay Pacific Cargo.