Pharma on the Move: New Trends in French Healthcare Logistics


Pharmaceuticals do not appear in pharmacies and hospitals out of nowhere, yet the logistics of transporting these goods are a seldom acknowledged component of the healthcare industry supply chain. Behind the scenes, several French players are stepping up with new services and certifications to meet the demands of today’s globalizing pharmaceutical market.

The global healthcare industry is at a critical juncture: global population is growing, and the median age is rising. The growth of the middle class in emerging markets is also surging, creating markets of millions of new customers and patients. The demand for healthcare has never been greater, and the entire world is now a marketplace.

To meet this rapid increase in demand, pharmaceutical companies should be moving fast to make strategic changes to their supply chains and capitalize on new opportunities. But supply chain change is slow. The winners of tomorrow’s healthcare marketplace will be the companies that have created agile, efficient, and flexible supply chains, and many leading French players have made sure to position themselves ahead of the curve. These logistic service providers have taken action to make strategic supply chain changes.

When considering the supply chain of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry, it is easy to concentrate on research and development initiatives, or end-user experience, with products readily available at pharmacies or in hospitals. However, inbetween these phases, a component that is often neglected is shipment and logistics. When handling highly sensitive materials such as live cultures and drug molecules, there are much greater components of care necessary than simply shipping packages via standard post. Requiring specialized care, including temperature controlled shipment methods, healthcare logistics is an exceedingly nuanced and technical subset of the industry

Highlighting the specialized services necessary to cater to the heathcare and pharmaceutical sector, Geraldine Devillers, Healthcare Key Account Manager at Chronopost, outlines the protocol of the leading French postal service provider. Known locally as Chronopost with La Poste as a primary stakeholder, the company is globally recognized under the name DPD Group. With healthcare related parcels making up nearly 15 percent of Chronopost’s global volume and growing, Devillers shares that the company is “very well known now throughout the healthcare industry in France.”

Naturally, if pharmaceuticals, drugs and vaccines are not properly transported, they can be damaged and therefore become unusable and even hazarous for patient care. Particularly where brand reputation and quality control are at stake, cold-chain solutions – the use of temperature controlled shipment conditions – are becoming vital throughout the industry. “Temperature control is frequently a key concern and priority of our clients,” shares Devillers, noting the commitment Chronopost has made to temperature controlled services. “Considering the very sophisticated logistics necessary, particularly in the shipment of temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals or hazardous materials, there are great precautions that must be met, including cold-chain packaging, compensating for fragility, and meeting the needs of highly unpredictable shipment orders.” To maintain the utmost quality assurance for clients, Chronopost conducts temperature campaigns, accompanying parcels with data-loggers to track temperatures throughout the shipping procedure.

Whereas Chronopost may be a leading service provider on the ground, another, perhaps unexpected, French player is bringing pharmaceutical logistics to the skies. Air France-KLM-Martinair (AFKLM Cargo) has become the first airline group to achieve IATA’s Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) certification for pharmaceutical handling. AFKLM Cargo Director of Pharma, Renata de Walle, remarks that the certification is “a significant milestone for our airline group since it reassesses the ongoing focus on innovation and improvement of our global pharma network processes and facilities, serving as a further enhancement of AFKLM Cargo’s global pharma network capabilities.”

The CEIV program was developed to improve the operational and preparedness procedures when dealing with pharmaceuticals, and to also counter the decline of air cargo’s market share of global pharma product transport. “Pharma is a top priority for AFKLM Cargo because it deals directly with people’s health. It is all about patients.” AFKLM Cargo currently maintains two major warehouses and two operations systems with closed cold chain capabilities, ready to meet the needs of customers and transport products safely across long distances.

Pharmaceutical logistics is still a developing sector of the industry, with a large opportunity for growth and expansion. The sector is already a USD 70 billion global market growing at an annual rate of four percent. Cost management for companies, as well as assistance in navigating foreign regulatory frameworks are both elements of support that logistics service providers are able to offer. Whereas many large companies still attempt to conduct logistics management internally, companies that embrace collaboration may be able to focus more on their core competencies – that is, research and development, and producing drugs – if they leave the logistics work up to companies that not only specialize in the services, but also exercise high quality standards of quality.

Writer: Louis Haynes

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