Through healthcare crisis after healthcare crisis the need for safe and sustainable supply chains is more pressing than ever. Increasing need for cold-chain products requires innovative solutions and recent regulatory changes emphasise this requirement, hence Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine security seals. Smart labels react to heat and time, and black-light verification prevents counterfeiting. The US Drug Supply Chain Security Act will be implemented in November 2023 with the aim of creating a traceable supply chain. This reduces opportunities for counterfeit and fake medication. However, keeping up with these changes as well as meeting new expectations will be difficult.
Leila Hawkins, in August 2022, stated that the “pharma business must also prioritise sustainability”. This will lead to more efficient operations, but what does sustainability look like in practice? Hawkins cites examples such as pre-qualified thermal packaging that “prolongs a product’s life”. This brings commercial benefits as a result of “temperature-controlled distribution process efficiency and simplified designs”.
Hawkins suggests that the pharmaceutical industry is responsible for “50% more greenhouse emissions than the automotive industry.” Issues such as packaging going to landfill are a thorn in the side of the industry’s attempts to lighten its footprint. She explores how over-predicting packaging needs can cause an environmental headache. She promotes technology to help with “assessments regarding shipping conditions and packaging needs”.
In a 2021 survey of third-party logistics on the cold chain by NTT Data, 31% of participants believed “proper packaging” to be their biggest challenge. As always, a collaborative approach will be critical in enacting lasting change. Hawkins suggests that choosing the right packaging partners allows stakeholders to enable improvements. She refers to the collaboration that allows Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine to spend 30 days in dry ice boxes that are replenished every 5 days.
As we move from one pandemic to the next crisis, the industry faces an opportunity to develop more sustainable and efficient packaging practices.
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