Transport of pharmaceutical products

Transportation of pharmaceutical products is a much more complicated matter than the transport of products for everyday use. It also entails enormous responsibility. The following article will discuss this issue and the subject of medication transport in the EU.

Which legal regulations shape the transport of pharmaceutical products?

Each country’s pharmaceutical law describes, among others, the requirements for storage of medicinal products that warehouses, pharmacies, and third-party institutions need to meet for the products not to lose their quality and effectiveness. It should also describe the duties of manufacturers and distributors of drugs, e.g., applying GDP – Good distribution practice. It is an EU regulation which “describes the minimum standards that a wholesale distributor must meet to ensure that the quality and integrity of medicines is maintained throughout the supply chain.” That means safe reception, transport, storage, and issuance of medicinal products. Assuming that an importer possesses all necessary permits and keeps records of their actions, below, we will focus on the GDP.

Distributors of drugs who own the GDP certificate commit themselves to follow a variety of rules. The drugs need to be authorized according to the EU law; they shall be stored in suitable conditions at any moment; they are not at risk of contamination by external factors or other products; there is a regular turnover of stored medicines; right pharmaceuticals reach right recipients in a satisfactory time. A distributor also has the duty to implement procedures of tracking medicines and the conditions in which they are kept, to locate defective products and take them out of circulation

How to transport medicines?

Owing to the special conditions under which drugs must be stored and preferable fast delivery, carrying agents favor road transport. Even though air transportation is the fastest, particularly for long distances, due to a lack of common standards and transparency, the interest in this kind of traffic has visibly decreased. When the drugs need to be delivered as soon as possible, there is also an option of transporting them in special refrigerated containers by sea or by rail. Many pharmaceutical companies choose sea freight because of the good organization of the supply chain. In the case of drugs, the risk is high during every handling. Road and sea carriers seem to control the whole process the best.

Traditionally, medicines were carried in specially adapted box trucks. The boxes keep a constant temperature that is usually between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. Some medicinal products travel in Styrofoam palettes with ice packs. However, refrigerated containers are the best solution. They allow for constant control of the conditions in which the products are kept and transport of pharmaceuticals that require different temperature ranges.

During transport, one needs to take care not only of the appropriate temperature but also air humidity. Medicinal products also cannot come in direct contact with the ice packs. They should be collected directly from the manufacturer or a warehouse. The entire journey should be documented – time, changes in container temperatures, etc. Top carriers consider all possible scenarios, such as delays or failure of the cooling system.

Transport of pharmaceutical products – conclusion

Transport of pharmaceuticals is not only an extremely lucrative industry, but it also carries high risk and responsibility; therefore, it is strictly regulated. Essential tips on the transport of medicines can be summarized in a few points:

  • Importers of drugs should choose a freight forwarder with extensive experience in pharmaceuticals transportation and work according to the rules of Good distribution practice.
  • Both importers and carriers need to be familiar with legal regulations concerning the transport of drugs, including specific product requirements.
  • Over the entire length of the route from a warehouse to a recipient, medicines should be stored in constant temperature and humidity, which should be controlled on an ongoing basis, e.g., with appropriate sensors.
  • Medications should be stored in special packaging, e.g., Styrofoam isothermal packaging or refrigerated containers, and they cannot be exposed to harmful effects of external factors or other medicines.
  • The entire route should be well-documented, including any potential inadequacies. It is crucial since any improperly stored drugs can negatively affect people’s health or even life.

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