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Info sharing needed when transporting pharma

By Staff Reports on February 7, 2014
tagged pharma, india, schiphol

The need for information sharing in order to manage pharma and life science shipments throughout their transportation was one of the key conclusions of the Pharma Shippers’ Forum at Air Cargo India in Mumbai.

The gathering of 40 pharma shippers, together with representatives of logistics service providers, cargo handlers, airports, airlines and regulators, uncovered problems and concerns facing India’s multibillion-dollar pharma industry as it steps up its export drive.

The forum was organized and co-hosted by Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and moderated by Enno Osinga (pictured right), Schiphol cargo senior vice president.

The event opened with an overview of the sector by Ryan Viegas, vice president supply chain and procurement for Watson Pharmaceuticals (a generic drug manufacturer now part of Actavis) told the audience that pharmaceuticals is India’s third biggest industry, employing 350,000 at 10,000 companies.

He added that India has the largest number of U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved sites outside the U.S., and that the sector is growing at 20 percent annually.

With initial input from experts representing all elements of the pharmaceutical supply chain, the forum soon provoked debate among the 100 delegates. Among the many challenges mentioned were the danger of temperature excursions rendering medicines ineffective; the need to secure supply chains from counterfeit products; the lack of transparent pricing from forwarders; and the often extreme difference between climates at origin and destination.

Also highlighted was the need for greater collaboration, the resistance to share information between supply chain partners, and the inability of some carriers to participate in the flow of information from forwarders.

One airline representative spoke of the challenges faced by the airlines in selecting handling partners with the resources and correct procedures to handle temperature-controlled shipments.

“There is no one standard,” she said about instructions on handling of individual shipments. “All the forwarders, shippers, airlines and handlers are busy designing their own, and they can be conflicting. The only way out of this impasse is for everyone to cooperate and seek a single solution that is uniform throughout the supply chain.”

A handler agreed.

“We need a running document from origin up to destination,” the handler said. “We need to know we can control the process. If something goes wrong, we have to see where it went wrong. This is a challenge especially for IATA to take the initiative.”

On the positive side, handlers demonstrated how they had invested to provide for the sector’s needs. A local specialist pharmaceuticals forwarder confirmed dramatic improvements in the Indian pharmaceutical industry’s export performance, with 90 percent of all temperature excursions now taking place after export from India.

A pharmaceutical shipper meanwhile praised the government support for its pharmaceutical activity in Goa in India, but said this was counteracted by the fact that the island’s airport had only one Middle East carrier at present.

A shipper suggested that modal shift to seafreight would not occur with most producers, as they had insufficient volumes to justify ocean containers at the necessary frequency. Another delegate reminded the audience of the cost of financing such high-value inventory during ocean voyages of up to six weeks, against the much faster option of airfreight. Yet another pointed out the short shelf lives of many products, and the unacceptability of losing up to six weeks of this at sea.