Healthcare & Pharmaceutical Shipping Trends
In recent years there has been a sharp decline in total prescriptions dispensed by mail order pharmacies. However, the format has seen an increase in specialty drugs used mostly in-home healthcare treatments. The most significant trends in pharmaceutical shipping directly to the patient is in the areas of home infusion therapy and in-home clinical trials. As a result, the pharmaceutical industry is making changes in packaging, storage considerations, and supply chain tracking.
Many patients requiring long-term therapy are choosing in-home care and infusion therapy instead of inpatient care. The rising costs of inpatient care and the lack of ability to return to work or life has mitigated these decisions. Both the home healthcare market and home infusion market are expected to experience significant growth. In fact, the global home healthcare market is expected to reach 517.2 billion by 2025 with North American holding 40% of the share. Home Infusion Therapy is expected to be the fastest growing segment of the home healthcare services market. It is predicted to reach $28 billion by 2024. Additionally, drug companies organizing clinical trials of new drugs have found difficulty recruiting patients for participation. As new drugs become more specific and complex, patient pools are becoming more narrow. Companies are now looking to perform trials in 'virtual' locations in order to improve patient access. Supply chain and logistics have been a concern in both infusion therapy and in-home clinical trials. Trending solutions include packaging changes, storage considerations, and supply chain tracking.
Packaging Changes for Ease of Use and Compliance
To meet the growing demand of home infusion therapy and 'virtual' in-home clinical trials, providers are trending toward a more streamlined package design with reformulated products. For home infusion therapy the requirements are outlined in the ASHP Guidelines on Home Infusion Pharmacy Services. Products must be 'aseptically compounded' per patient requirements. In other words, the prescription must be packaged using the appropriate ingredient dosage amounts for the particular patient, as well as in the correct dosage amount for one week. In the in-home clinical trial area, providers are looking to enhance patient compliance with small packaging, specifically blister packs that mark morning and evening dosages.
Storage and Handling Trends
It is also important that the potency and purity of the medications are maintained throughout delivery. The compounded product and specialty package result in drugs that require special storage and handling. Sanjay Vyas, corporate vice-president, global head of clinical trial supplies and logistics at Parexel stated, “All of these specific requirements must be supported by a supply logistics chain that can ensure that the material is maintained exactly as required as it moves along the supply chain." While pharmaceutical shipping has become somewhat routine, new technologies are trending, especially in cold-storage transportation. Some companies are specializing in sub-zero shipping while others are developing phase-changing materials and other sources of cold containers.
Supply Chain Tracking
Finally, Vyas says, "Instead of sending large shipments to investigator sites, manufacturers will now be sending multiple, smaller shipments to patients, and logistics planning and patient monitoring data will need to be linked. Planning the last mile of drug delivery to the patient’s home from either the manufacturing plant or the storage depot will become more challenging." Shipping controls and tracking are trending toward third-party handlers such as Oracle. There is a shift from one central operation to individual operations. Additionally, this trend is driving the need for more sophisticated monitoring and tracking devices such as throwaway sensors and global communications networks.
Two startups to watch in the distribution of medications are Pillpack and Insightfil. Pillpack delivers medications sorted and packed for individual usage via the mail. It has received $94.4 million in funding from Founder Collective, Accel Partners, and Menlo Ventures. Insightfil helps to ensure that patients are correctly using medications through software, custom packaging, and mobile tools. It has received about $1 million in funding from MassChallenge.
James Streeter, global vice-president of life-sciences product strategy at Oracle, believes blockchain technology will be crucial in pharmaceutical logistics. "Data lineage and even blockchain methodologies will be required so that manufacturers will be able to trace each drug, its packaging, and shipments precisely. Data requirements will explode, requiring large amounts of storage space, analytics and machine learning software to manage and mine."
Due to the growth of in-home healthcare, including infusion therapy, and 'virtual' clinical trials, trends in distribution of pharmaceuticals include package changes, storage and handling technologies and supply chain tracking. Two startups in the industry are Pillpack and Insightfil. Blockchain technology is expected to be required as data requirements increase.