Four pharma trends that impact the air freight cold chain

2nd July 2021

Cold chain by air is on the rise – especially in the area of high-valuable pharmaceuticals. Stay up to date in the ever-expanding industry of air freight.

There’s been a rise in cold chain by air – particularly in pharma transport – which accounts for 95% of all goods transported by plane.

“Around 25% of these pharmaceuticals are high-valuable goods – worth +€1,000,000  per pallet. Take the recent Covid-19 vaccine, for instance”, knows the Global Air Cargo Business Leader at Thermo King. Here are 4 pharma trends that will impact the demand for air freight in the next decade.

“25% of all air-transported goods are worth upwards of €1,000,000 per pallet!”

1. Legislation to guarantee product quality

More and more governments understand the necessity of temperature-controlled deliveries by air:

  • The European Union issued the Good Distribution Practice (GDP) to standardize the transportation of wholesale pharmaceuticals. The GDP defines a minimum set of requirements to maintain the integrity of medicine throughout the supply chain.
  • In 2015, China issued – for the first time – similar legislation called GSP (Good Supply Practices)  to trace medicine throughout the entire supply chain.

The result of this legislation? More and more pharmaceutical products need to be temperature-controlled to maintain quality. Nowadays, around 80% of all pharma cargo is transported between 15°C – 25°C.

“28% of global air cargo are biopharmaceuticals.” 

2. Marked increase in biopharmaceutical transport

Biopharmaceuticals are medical products that are developed without the use of synthetic or artificial components. They will have a tremendous impact on temperature-controlled air freight.

“Biopharmaceuticals account for more than 28% of global air pharma. But recently, they face competition from biosimilars. Those are products similar to the original biopharmaceutical  – but produced cheaper. However, I think we’ll transport more biopharmaceuticals. The reason? They are highly-temperature sensitive and have a short lifespan. The recent Covid-19 vaccine is a great example.”

3. Monitor your goods at all times

As we wrote in previous blog posts , 20% of all cargo is damaged during transport. In air transport, the majority of these precious goods are damaged while changing modes of transport. From truck to airplane – for example.

“The reason for this change? A sudden shift in ambient temperature. We are working on Cold Storage Solutions – to keep pharma at the right temperature on tarmac. But ultimately, monitoring and tracking this cargo will reduce this number.”

“With data loggers, we can download a report that showed the temperature during transport – and give customers a full report on shipping temperatures.”

“Reducing the weight of 1 container by 60 kgs saves 2,830kg of CO2 per year!” 

4. Reducing the weight of air cargo containers

Just like any aspect of the cold chain, sustainability is increasingly important in the air freight industry.

“Decreasing the weight of our air cargo containers by 60 kg, has tremendous effects. If you take into consideration that every container makes 10 trips of 6,000 km per year, you’ll save approximately 2,830 kg of C02 emissions – which is the equivalent to 140 trees. Just by making our containers lighter, we can make a tremendous impact.”

Thermo King. Improving air cargo since 2005.

In 2005, Envirotainer and Thermo King launched the first active cooling container for air freight which led to an enormous breakthrough in the industry.

Our containers are equipped with 2 (or 3) battery packs – to reduce risk throughout the cold chain.

Furthermore, our trained dealers offer technical support in the main airports across the world.

Interested? Read more about air transport on our website.