Updated on 29 July 2013
Mr Herbert Vongpusanachai, managing director, DHL Express, Singapore
Changing healthcare landscape, heightened regulatory requirements, price pressures and persistent economic uncertainties are some of the challenges faced by the global life sciences and healthcare (LSH) industry. Despite the challenging climate, the LSH industry continues to evolve and show resilience. The global pharmaceutical industry is expected to be worth more than $1 trillion in 2014, translating to a compound annual growth rate of five percent.
Closer home, the active pharmaceutical ingredients market in the Asia Pacific region earned revenues of $1.12 billion in 2011 and is estimated to reach $1.79 billion in 2018. Just like other Asian markets that have taken the economic center stage, the LSH industry in Asia is developing into a global powerhouse. Asia has been witnessing an exponential increase in healthcare expenditure due to higher income, expansion of aging population, and improved access to medicine through government policies and initiatives.
This sentiment is also reflected in a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which found that 55 percent of multinational companies and 62 percent of domestic companies believe that Asia, rather than North America and Europe, will be the focus market for LSH. In particular, China, India, and Singapore will be key countries.
While this increased activity in Asia bodes well for the LSH industry and its suppliers, it is also a complex sector with specific needs. Guidelines, from production right up to delivery, have to be put into place. To start with, many companies follow a good manufacturing practice (GMP) in drug production to safeguard the integrity and quality of medicinal products. This practice is not just restricted to production but also encompasses other procedures such as proper warehousing, packaging and transportation. Above all, standards need to be set in logistics as it takes on the role of an enabler in the growing life sciences industry. In this respect, warehousing is an important component in logistics and fulfilment decisions are driven by two factors: security and flexibility. A key consideration is the ability to store the product well, as well as to keep it segregated in the warehouse, until approval by the relevant government authorities is granted.
Due to the diversity and sensitivity of life sciences products, from off-the-counter or prescribed drugs, animal healthcare products to medical equipment, a key consideration is the option of tertiary packaging. Certain pharmaceuticals have to be maintained at a precise temperature to retain their efficacy and logistics providers need to be able to handle shipments with various temperature conditions; and monitoring capabilities during transit. Experienced and reputable logistics providers should provide temperature-controlled packaging for shipments categorized in three most commonly required temperature zones, namely ambient (15-25 degrees Celsius), chilled (two-to-eight degrees Celsius) and frozen (-20 degrees Celsius). The boxes should also be International Air Transport Association (IATA) compliant, and come in a range of different sizes within each temperature range to ensure temperature accuracy and stability.