Real-time tracking has become a buzzword in pharmaceutical logistics. Live-monitoring, however, is very likely to be more than a one-day wonder. This is due to some trends that nurture the demand for real-time monitoring solutions in cold chain logistics. These are: More temperature-sensitive medication due to a rise in biologicals and biosimilars. High-value shipment like investigational drugs, active pharmaceutical ingredients, biologicals samples etc. The trend towards personalized medication and direct-to-patient services.
As for now, one-time/reusable data loggers – foremost temperature loggers – are in use, which do not provide real-time tracking. Data can be extracted at the point of reception. Those tracking devices may suffice in many cases, but especially when high-value medication is concerned, they bear risks.
2 common shortcomings of conventional data tracking devices
- Conventional data loggers, only allow for data extraction at the point of reception. If a breach in the cold chain occurred before it is only hours or even days hereafter that action can be taken. E. g. replacement to be ordered, a patient date to be rescheduled etc. In the worst case this could mean a patient needs to suffer, precious time and high values are lost. Consequently, the party responsible for logistics suffers an irreparable brand damage.
- Most conventional data loggers need to be turned on manually. That is what makes them prone to human error. For instance: They are placed inside the transportation box and are instantly tracking the temperature. But, the drug may not yet have been placed inside as the cool packs are still preconditioned, the box is left open etc. Consequently, when temperature data is extracted from the logging device at the point of reception (e. g. the clinical trial site), the conclusions drawn are wrong. Yes, the pre-defined temperature range has been trespassed. The medication´s integrity inside, however, may not have been affected. So it need not to be marked as “waste” and be disposed of.
4 advantages of real-time data tracking
- Real-time data monitoring enables immediate reaction to cold chain breaches during transit. Given of course, automated processes are in place to trigger reaction. Alert functions can be integrated when the shipment exceeds a pre-determined temperature or humidity range to allow for automated replacement ordering.
- Real-time tracking provides more relevant parameters to be visible such as geo-fencing. This is important to see whether a shipments has deviated from the pre-set route (could be or whether there have been delays in delivery. This is essential for high-value substances and for delivery routes that cross risky areas, medication is at risk of being stolen.
- By this aggregated data, the efficiency of the cold chain can be enhanced and forecasting can be improved. This can lead to a cost-reduction in the supply chain, which makes up 20 % of the total R&D costs of pharmaceutical companies.
- Multiple parties can access the data at the same time. So no more painstakingly sending mails to and from each other since partners can use the same web-based platform.
What you should check before purchasing a real-time tracking solution
In a first step, of course the usual requirements should be checked: temperature operating range, accuracy, battery lifetime, trackable parameters, lifetime etc. When it comes to a real-time tracking device, however, further questions need to be answered:
- What data do you really need to match given requirements?
Since having all possible data in store is nice, but if there is no one making sense of all the data and acting on deviations it is of no use. Besides, real-time tracking devices are costly – so consider well.
- How often does data need to be tracked and monitored?
Data loggers normally track temperature, humidity etc. at a minimum frequency of 1 minute. Data can be sent at the intervals. Here, it is advisable to scrutinize carefully what data is needed, in what frequency. If tracking and monitoring can be tailored closely to your needs – great.