Shipping pharmaceutical products is more complex than just ensuring they are well protected during transit. Whilst with some items it is this simple, others, like vaccines, require a maintained and constant cold chain during all stages of their lifetime. This includes the temperature inside shipping containers during transit, and this temperature can vary between different drug products, so finding a solution that works is crucial. If drugs and vaccines that require maintained temperatures at all times are exposed to adverse environments, they can lose potency and fail to work when administered.
Failed Vaccines & Drugs
If a drug or vaccine loses potency during transit (or at any time of its lifecycle) then it may not work as effectively (or at all) when administered to the patient(s) being treated. This can lead to the vaccine or drugs being disposed of without being used, leading to more of the same required. If these drugs are inadvertently given to a patient, then they may not work and in some cases a second dosage will then again be required.
If the same drugs/vaccines have to be reordered, then this can lead to:
- Delays in drugs reaching their end users; the patients who require them
- Stock shortages as drugs run out quicker than anticipated
- The failed drugs being disposed of, which is a waste of the money that went into the making of them, the cost of storage and the cost of shipping
- Unease in patients and lack of confidence in the drug and, in the wider sense, the healthcare team treating them
- Prolonged illness or risk of illness in patients waiting for medication or receiving medication that is not as effective as it should be
There are many reasons why drugs fail to meet approval, and failed shipping is just one.
If batches of drugs consistently fail during shipping it could be seen as that they are too unstable to be shipped effectively, and this, plus the actual cost of the failed products, can be a mark against them. If this is an issue with the packaging and cooling products used instead of the drug compounds themselves, then this is a problem as this may not be seen in the bigger picture when the drug is reviewed for approval.
- Transportation of medicinal products – some things to consider – MHRA Inspectorate
- Correct Vaccine Storage is Vitally Important – Hydropac Blog
- Policy and Procedure for Maintaining the Cold Vaccine Chain – NHS England
- Storage, distribution and disposal of vaccines – Information for public health professionals on immunisation from GOV.uk