Air transport services for the pharmaceutical sector

Pharmaceutical products require special attention and responsibility from logistics operators who need to ensure the adequate product transport conditions. These mainly include maintaining an invariable temperature level, as unexpected rises may cause severe damage to the products, modifying their healing properties.

Polish pharmaceutical products constitute one of the most frequently exported product groups in the national economy. In the first four months of 2017,our domestic exports of drugs exceeded EUR 1,000,000,000. As compared to the corresponding period of 2016, this sector recorded growth of over EUR 100,000,000. Based on a report by McKinsey & Company (an advisory company), the Polish pharmaceutical sector is experiencing steady growth. Its value currently accounts for approximately 1 percent of GDP, which implies that Poland has become the largest Central European market and the sixth largest market in the European Union.

For several years ROHLIG SUUS Logistics has successfully provided air transport services to customers from the pharmaceutical industry who expect their logistics operator to ensure not only comprehensive, but also high quality services. Since the introduction of guidelines on Good Distribution Practice (GDP) in 2015, pharmaceutical companies have attached significantly more attention to inspections based on these guidelines. Practically speaking, the GDP is a set of rules, the observance of which ensures the adequate quality and stability of medicinal products during distribution. The document covers such aspects as collecting, transporting, storing and releasing medicinal products.

As explained by Mariusz Filec, Air Freight Director at ROHLIG SUUS Logistics, “There are two variants of controlled-temperature air transport ‒ the passive variant (e.g.: 2°C – 8°C, 15°C – 25°C) and the active variant, i.e. special refrigerated containers. Considering the product specificity, customers expect the logistics operator to ensure invariable temperature at each stage of the logistics chain and to cut delivery times to the minimum, as longer deliveries increase the risk of temperature fluctuations affecting product characteristics. This is particularly important for active substances, e.g. vaccines, which contain biological material.”

Given that drugs are extremely sensitive products, additional protective measures, i.e. thermal blankets, are utilised in their transport. With time, this increasingly popular solution in Poland is likely to become standard practice. Moreover, so-called data loggers (temperature recorders) are used to evidence acceptable drug transport temperature. Used in shipments, they are aimed at gathering data on any potential sudden temperature rises. ROHLIG SUUS Logistics acquires thermal blankets and data loggers from reliable suppliers, at preferential prices; the result of which is that its customers can benefit from these services within one package.

Although logistics operators are not supervised in terms of their service provision in accordance with the guidelines on Good Distribution Practice by any specific institution, customers tend to independently audit companies annually. New pharmaceutical products transport standards in the air industry have been proposed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Obtaining the CEIV certification entails documenting the inspection of the entire (warehouse-to-warehouse) supply chain.

“ROHLIG SUUS Logistics has established cooperation, inter alia, with Air France KLM, Lufthansa, Turkish Cargo and Cargolux, which were the first airlines in the world to obtain this type of global licence,” stressed Mariusz Filec. “Moreover, our expertise and multi-annual experience, gained through cooperation with pharmaceutical industry players, makes us well suited to providing safe and efficient controlled-temperature transport,” added the company representative.

The reference regulations in Poland are currently at the early development stage. However, in our opinion, it is most likely that within the nearest 3 years this certification will become as popular as thermal blankets, reflecting one of the requirements imposed by international customers.