Container Reuse Expected to Take Chill Out of Pharma Cold Chain Packaging Cost

Reuse seen as the prescription for optimizing pharma packaging spend.

sonocoWorldwide, the annual logistics expenditure for temperature-sensitive healthcare products is around $8.4 billion and growing, accounting for roughly 13 percent of the overall pharmaceutical logistics market. An estimated $5.6 billion is allocated to transportation while $2.8 billion is spent on specialized packaging and monitoring devices. Sonoco Thermosafe recently undertook a survey to better understand anticipated trends over the next two to three years. Reuse is on the rise.

Conducted between Feb. 26 and July 13, 2014, the research explores forward-looking trends that significantly impact the cold chain industry – including environmental, trends, logistics and products and services. Survey responses came from 165 people spanning more than 20 countries and five continents.

The two key takeways identified by the study were that:

  • Increasing reuse of passive packaging systems is expected as a result of multiple drivers including environmental concerns and the need to improve supply chain efficiencies.
  • The burden of regulations will continue to grow globally, while at the same time pharmaceutical providers continue to outsource non-core activities, both of which will have a dramatic impact in the next five years.

With respect to passive packaging, the main areas identified in need of improvement are package efficiency, total cost of ownership for delivery of drugs to their destinations, and price. Of the 30 percent of applicable respondents who confirmed usage of active systems, price and availability of active containers in locations when and where needed received the most criticism.

Almost 70 percent of respondents anticipate more reuse.

Reuse: almost 70 percent of respondents anticipate more of it.

Reuse Interest Grows

A little more than 50 percent of respondents indicated currently reusing their passive insulated shippers, while 38.8 percent exercise “a one and done” approach. Almost 70 percent of respondents expect an industry-wide increase in the reuse of passive packaging solutions, while an 8 percent minority see no need. About 10 percent feel there will be no near term change. The main driver for implementation in this case (68.3 percent) is packaging cost with respect to the Total Cost of Ownership. Some 90 percent of the NO voters (7.2 percent overall) believe that the cost to return packaging for re-use is prohibitive.

Barriers to Change Include Cost, Long Implementation Timelines and Management Challenges

As for challenges around updating or replacing shipping solutions, cost, long implementation periods, and changes in personnel responsibilities weigh heavily (58.6 percent) as the reasons favoring the status quo. This result is not broken down in terms of active or passive. Approximately 20 percent are fearful of not executing it properly while other concerns are regulatory compliance (10.2 percent), applying current best practices (4.7 percent), or just that the project would be overwhelming (4.7 percent).

Custom or Standardized Solution?

Over the next 2 to 3 years, 49 percent feel they would rather purchase off the shelf solutions rather than developing custom packaging solutions. Cost and immediate availability were cited as the driving factors in this case.

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