The Big Chill: Temperature-Sensitive Pharma Logistics in Brazil


When combining the sheer size of Brazil – the fifth largest country in the world – with its tropical climate, its largely perfectible infrastructure, and the soaring importance of temperature sensitive biologicals, one understands the urgent need to develop solutions guaranteeing appropriate transport conditions in Brazil.

“We may be vaguely aware that Brazil is big, but we do not fully appreciate how big”

Pius Hornstein, Sanofi

“As foreigners, we tend to underestimate the size of the market and the dimensions of Brazil; we may be vaguely aware that Brazil is big, but we do not fully appreciate how big. Brazil is fifteen times bigger than France in geographical size and three times more populous,” warns Pius Hornstein, country chair Sanofi Brazil and general manager Pharma. “Operating in Brazil moreover entails a heavy responsibility weighing on companies’ shoulders: once a product is registered in the country, pharmaceutical companies are held liable during the entire product life cycle – from the moment a given product lands on the Brazilian soil to the transfusion, without forgetting logistics, cold chain storage, and medical & scientific support,” stresses Samuel Mauricio, vice-president for Brazil at Octapharma, one of the largest human protein manufacturers in the world.

This aspect has moreover gained an ever-growing importance as most pharmaceutical companies operating in Brazil have developed a substantial, continuously developing manufacturing footprint in the country. “Sanofi has a strong manufacturing footprint in Brazil, which has the largest industrial hub for Sanofi outside of Europe, being responsible for 90 percent of the volume of our products sold in Brazil,” reveals Sanofi’s Hornstein. “Taking Janssen and J&J together, we have more than fifteen manufacturing plants in Brazil,” explains Bruno Costa Gabriel, managing director of Janssen Brazil, while Allan Finkel, Novo Nordisk Brazil’s vice president and general manager, highlights that their “Brazilian facility is the biggest plant in Latin America and the most significant production facility for the Novo Nordisk ecosystem outside Denmark.” In this regard, it seems that the recent economic crisis did not cool pharmaceutical companies’ eagerness to scale up their manufacturing footprints in the country. “In 2015, at the height of the recent crisis, Roche decided to invest over BRL 300 million [USD 93 million] over the next five years in the modernization of our plant in Rio de Janeiro, and our overarching vision is to turn this manufacturing asset into an export center. At the moment, around 30 percent of our current production is exported to Latin America – and also to Italy for one of our locally manufactured products. Leveraging on the ongoing modernization of this plant, we will soon start exporting products from Brazil to the rest of the world, with a focus on European markets,” explains Rolf Hoenger, president & general manager of Roche Pharma Brazil, thereby strengthening the heightened manufacturing importance taken by Brazil in the global operations of multinational companies. In this context, multinational companies also have to ensure that their logistics and distribution capacities are perfectly aligned with their manufacturing operations. “We also have a strong commitment in supply chain, having recently just constructed a new distribution center the size of five football fields in 2015, representing a EUR200 million [USD 238 million] investment from 2015 to 2020,” highlights Sanofi’s Pius Hornstein.

“In the early 2000s, I however noticed the gap that existed between the tremendous resources allocated to the development of pharmaceutical products and the inadequate cold chain management solutions they were resorting to, despite the vital aspect of these pharmaceutical products,” explains Paulo Vitor de Andrade, founder and director of Grupo Polar, a company which has today become a reference in cold chain management for the Brazilian and Latin American markets. “To put it bluntly, the existing logistics solutions at that time jeopardized the efficacy of drugs in which pharmaceutical companies could have invested up to one billion USD to develop,” he adds. “After engaging in dialogue with pharmaceutical companies and understanding the problematic these organizations were trying to address, Grupo Polar developed the first ice foam in Brazil, a solution for the transport of medicines with controlled temperature: ICE FOAM®, ” he continues, while the latter is now used by over 80 percent of pharmaceutical companies operating in Brazil when moving life-saving products across Brazil’s 27 states and across the entire continent.

“Following the development of ICE FOAM®, we moreover realized that the absence of established logistics processes was also affecting the ability of pharmaceutical companies to safely bring products to their patients in Brazil. Still in conjunction with pharmaceutical companies, Grupo Polar therefore contributed to the development of processes surrounding the logistics management of goods requiring temperature control. This line of activity grew to become a major aspect of our company’s activity, as companies were increasingly eager to develop methods that would guarantee premium transportation and storage conditions for vital products,” highlights Grupo Polar’s Paulo Vitor de Andrade. Precisely, multinational and local pharmaceutical companies started requiring that Grupo Polar qualifies the services that their third-party logistics partners were using. Sooner than later, the Brazilian National Surveillance Sanitary Agency (ANVISA) also recognized the company’s contribution to the development of reliable cold chain services in Brazil. “We therefore became the reference company in helping ANVISA set the regulatory standards and guides for goods requiring temperature controlled transportation, in collaboration with the syndicate of the pharmaceutical industry in the State of Sao Paulo (SINDUSFARMA) and the Brazilian Association of Logistics Providers (ANFARLOG),” adds Paulo Vitor de Andrade, while the company simultaneously set up Laboratorio Valida, an independent organization to ethically conduct highly technological testing on the cold chain management processes built by Grupo Polar and some of its competitors.

Moving forward, Grupo Polar intends to use its privileged access to sector-relative data to create finely tuned predictive models used for testing logistic processes. “While logistic companies have already started tracking data corresponding to the transportation conditions a few years ago, they used this information as a track record of the reliability of their processes. Instead, Grupo Polar is looking forward to treating this information in order to help pharmaceutical companies and logistic third-party providers enhance the efficiency of their activity, which will be – in turn – be beneficial to their patients,” concludes Paulo Vitor de Andrade.


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