6 Pressing Pharmaceutical Logistics Challenges That Need To Be Addressed Now

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The pharmaceutical industry continues to grow and develop with new and improved products being launched thanks to the extensive research and clinical trials. These heavily researched pharmaceutical products are supplied globally, and is a lifesaver for many patients. However, for the drugs to be effective in curing the symptom or disease they are developed for, they need to follow certain regulations, especially in terms of storage and transportation.

Given how the drugs are sensitive to moisture and variation in temperature, pharmaceutical manufacturers should pay careful attention to temperature control during storage and transportation of the drugs. This is extremely important to maintain the effectiveness of the drugs, and to ensure the maintenance of its high quality.

Traditionally long distance transportation of medicines has been undertaken by air. However, in recent years there has been a trend to move some of these products in refrigerated containers. During this kind of pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution transit, manufacturers need to ensure the products have sufficient storage lives to successfully last the complete chain. And, the carrier needs the required expertise and due diligence to ensure successful out-turns.

Shipping of pharmaceutical products involve long, complex routes, and also calls for temperature-controlled environment constantly. Temperature excursions, customs glitches, packaging breakdowns, and packing choice are all part of the inherent risks that exist in the global logistics market. Every pharmaceutical firm should factor in these unforeseen conditions that may arise, and put in place the necessary measures to counter them as many lives are dependent on a drug making it safely from origin to destination, on time, with its quality intact.

Cold chain logistics is one of the most used forms of transport as it is a temperature controlled supply chain, and is ideal for delivering various medicinal products. However, this sector faces some unique challenges, some of which are not just isolated to the cold chain logistics sector.

Listed below is an in-depth look at some of the major challenges faced by the pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution sector.


Globalisation has been largely fuelled by international trade and information technology, and has narrowed the distance between borders. This has increased the dependence of countries on each other and has given them easy accessibility and affordability to better quality products. And, with the rise in globalisation there has been an increase in demand for high quality products, including pharmaceutical products. This puts pressure on the pharmaceutical industry to have the life-saving drugs delivered efficiently and effectively without tampering its life-saving quality.


Thanks to heavy investment in technology, research, and development, many new drugs are being launched, and their reach being expanded into new markets. With this rise in products and their reach, there has been an equal increase in the governing bodies imposing various regulations. Concerted efforts have been made for harmonising the various regulatory bodies, and the process still continues. As per the guidelines of Good Distribution Practice (GDP) for medicinal products for human use, the temperature requirements have been extended to its transportation, and the coverage has been expanded to include over-the-counter drugs. A large majority of pharmaceutical products now require temperature-controlled shipping to various destinations. Hence, the pharmaceutical industry needs to get on-board with this requirement to ensure they do not incur any loss on spoilt cargo.


Biologics are quite expensive, hence, represent a higher value target for thieves to steal. The brand name medicines represent high costs and many hours of research and development, which makes them very invaluable and expensive. This also makes them a great target for counterfeiters. Counterfeit drugs are introduced into the supply chain, which has been a growing concern and challenge for pharmaceutical supply chain management. Security of the cargoes has always been an important aspect. This means pharmaceutical firms have to make more robust investment in security systems, both while the products are in the warehouse and in transit.

Cost Reduction

The common rhetoric in the marketplace today is to do more with less. Cutting costs and increasing capacity is one of the greater challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry, especially where cold chain logistics is concerned. The industry needs to devise strategies to counter capacity issues, investments in refrigerated fleets that require significant capital investment, driver shortage where they require specially-trained drivers, and an increase in overall liability.

Cost of Technology

Pharmaceutical supply chain is getting more complex, and consumer expectations are on a rise. Many pharmaceutical companies prefer outsourcing their logistics and supply chain management to third parties who take care of the company’s distribution and fulfilment services. The companies who do it in-house and the outsourced third parties are required to invest in technology that allows for location and environmental condition and temperature tracking in real time, as well as monitoring security. This includes both on-board technology investment as well as back-end IT infrastructure investments.

Operational Issues

Shippers define the “set point” temperatures and may include their independent data loggers to measure product and air temperatures. Hence, the pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution firms must get into an agreement with the carriers before the cargo sets sail about the different shipment requirements. The products being shipped may need additional instructions and checks during transit, depending on product sensitivities and routes. Clearance by the authorities in importing countries need to be specified as also meeting all the necessary standards with due diligence.

The world of pharmaceutical logistics is a complex, challenging, and ever evolving sphere. Companies need to be ever ready to step up to the challenge and strive constantly to meet the increasing demands of a more connected global economy. Pharmaceutical companies need to be adapt at managing complexity and risk, reducing total cost, and maximising efficiencies to scale up profits.

There is a rising awareness in the pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution sector about the importance of logistics and the challenges they face within it. The majority of the industry players are focusing on initiatives and working on bringing about optimal strategic changes to increase logistics efficiency.

Tomorrow’s challenge in the pharmaceutical industry is to develop new medicines to prevent or cure major diseases. And, today’s challenge is to make that possible by investing in better technologies and continuously investing in overall process development.

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