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Transporting Pharmaceutical Products: What You Need to Know

The pharmaceutical industry generates billions of dollars in the U.S. each year. As a result, transporting pharmaceutical products is a massive business itself. Moving th

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Jon-Michael Soracchi
February 3, 2020
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The pharmaceutical industry generates billions of dollars in the U.S. each year. As a result, transporting pharmaceutical products is a massive business itself. Moving this precious and valuable cargo is a delicate process that requires pinpoint accuracy and extreme attention to detail. Mistakes that occur in pharmaceutical shipping can lead to costly and fatal consequences.

When transporting pharmaceutical products, it’s important to work with a reliable shipping partner. Most pharmaceuticals are temperature sensitive and require special care and handling while being transported. Shippers and carriers must comply with FDA and DOT regulations when shipping pharmaceuticals. 

R+L Global Logistics has the knowledge and experience to transport pharmaceuticals safely and quickly. Our informative guide below provides you with everything you need to know about the pharmaceutical shipping process. 

Pharmaceutical Transportation Regulations

Pharmaceutical Transport Regulations

One of the biggest details you need to consider when shipping pharmaceuticals is complying with the necessary regulations. Given the crucial nature of these goods, restrictions need to be taken seriously. The rules in place begin at the manufacturing plant and extend all the way through the supply chain to the store shelves. 

The first set of rules come from the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP). These guidelines were first established in 1969 and set standards for manufacturing, storage, and distribution of pharmaceutical and food products. In 2015, they were updated to accommodate details included in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). 

Some of the highlights of these regulations related to the shipping of pharmaceuticals include:

  • Vehicle Equipment- Ensuring vehicles used for pharmaceutical transportation have the necessary design and equipment. For example, trailers must have the necessary temperature control and security measures in place. 
  • Transportation Operations- This includes adequate cleaning of the cargo area of a trailer to prevent cross contamination. Temperature monitoring and control devices must also be regularly checked and serviced to ensure appropriate function.
  • Personnel Training- Individuals directly involved in the movement of pharmaceutical goods must receive proper training. This training must be documented.
  • Record Keeping- Transportation records and training documentation must be properly kept and stored. 

The above details are applicable to carriers moving pharmaceuticals. When looking to move freight, be sure your shipping company abides by these guidelines. R+L Global Logistics qualified and vetted carrier partners exceed these standards. When you ship your pharmaceuticals with us, you can rest easy knowing that your sensitive freight will be handled and transported safely.

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

Labeling Requirements for Pharmaceuticals

Labeling Requirement For Pharmaceuticals

In addition to maintaining transportation requirements, the FDA is also responsible for rules related to the labeling of products. This encompasses establishing the information that needs to be included on each label and enforcing these standards. Therefore, before you even agree to ship your pharmaceuticals, you need to ensure that your products meet the labeling requirements.

Information that needs to be included on the labels includes:

  • Warnings
  • Purpose or use
  • Active and inactive ingredients
  • Allergic reactions
  • Directions
  • Official product name
  • Drug facts table

Furthermore, the label should be designed with the following things in mind:

Format — The label should be organized in an efficient manner and include all pertinent information

Font size and type — The label must be designed in a way that makes the text legible

Language — The label should be free of typographical errors and can use abbreviations as long as they’re well known. Use of correct grammar is also needed so that there are no misunderstandings when being read.

Curiously, the FDA does not require pharmaceutical companies to list the ingredients’ country of origin, only where the majority of the manufacturing occured. 

So even if — let’s say — 80 percent of the raw materials came from India or China, if the components were processed in the United States, then that is what is allowed to be put on the bottle.

R+L Global Logistics can also assist you with shipping medical equipment. No matter what you're shipping, we'll apply the highest level of care and handling to your valuable goods.

Packing Pharmaceuticals for Shipping

Packing Pharmaceuticals For Shipping

Taking the utmost care here can be the difference between a ruined shipment, and happy customers and patients. Climate-controlled trucks are usually a necessity, but equally important is correctly and efficiently packing the pharmaceuticals to be ready for shipping.

Insulated containers can be a big help and protect packages from heat, light, air and moisture, as well as general potential damage during the shipping process. Roughly 70 percent of medicine needs to be climate controlled, so insulation and refrigeration are essential in many cases.

Thermal pallet covers can also be used to further protect the freight. These are custom-made covers that are put over the drugs while on a pallet and add another layer of protection against temperature fluctuations. They are also puncture proof, which means the shipper or shippee won’t have to worry about unnecessary damage.

Also, while it might go without saying, the boxes or containers should be packed as efficiently as possible onto pallets. The goal is to ship a large quantity of goods while limiting movement while in transit. Medicine - for the most part - is going to be exceedingly fragile. If the contents inside are damaged in any way, there’s a good chance the products can no longer be sold. 

R+L Global Logistics protects the integrity of your products throughout transportation. A lot of time and effort goes into safely packaging your pharmaceutical products. We ensure that time isn’t wasted by matching that level of care and effort while transporting your goods. All of our carriers are trained on the proper procedures for handling sensitive freight. 

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

Maintaining the Cold Chain During Shipping

Maintaining the Cold Chain During Shipping

As soon as pharma products are produced, the clock starts ticking toward their expiration date. Using temperature-controlled shipping is important to ensure products don’t go bad or even just to slow down the natural deterioration of the drugs. A small shift in temperature — even just a couple of degrees too warm or cold — can spoil the shipment.

This is where cold chain logistics comes into play. Cold chain transport is the process of moving freight that requires a temperature controlled environment through most or all of its journey. The journey begins at manufacturing and ends when the product reaches the consumer.

The cold chain is maintained at the various stages in the following ways: 

  • Manufacturing & Supply: At the beginning stage, a suitable temperature-controlled environment is established and maintained throughout the manufacturing cycle. Some manufacturing plants have different areas with varying environments. Others are dedicated to specific products that all have the same temperature needs.
  • Transportation: Since this is a cold chain, the shipping of medicines takes place in a refrigerated, insulated truck. The vehicles are regularly inspected and serviced to make sure there is no variation in temperature during transport.
  • Storage: In order to not break the cold chain, the drugs go right from the back of the climate-controlled truck into a refrigerated warehouse. This is a staging ground before the pharmaceuticals are delivered to pharmacies. In some cases, this skip is stepped and products are taken directly from manufacturing to the end consumer.
  • Stores: The final piece of the cold supply chain is moving the chilled products from the warehouse to the pharmacies or hospitals. On-site refrigeration provides pharmaceuticals the atmosphere they need until they’re needed for use.

Refrigerated trucks are important in the cold supply chain and are specially built to make sure the freight in question doesn’t run the risk of spoiling. The refrigerated trailers work separately from the trucks as they have their own power source. This allows it to run its cooling unit independently. It is set up like this so the medicine will stay cool whether it is being pulled by a truck, or some other method of transportation.

Ideally, the refrigeration unit inside the trailer is paired with an ample amount of insulation, which will keep the products protected from outside elements. This will also allow the cooling unit to work more efficiently and not have to overcompensate. 

If you're freight shipping medical supplies along with your pharmaceutical products, we'll apply the same level of care. No matter what you ship with us, your goods will be safe, secure, and delivered quickly.

How to Protect Your Shipment from Theft

How to Protect Your Shipment From Theft

If you are shipping pharmaceuticals, it's an absolute necessity to have solid theft prevention protocols in place. Not only do your products likely carry a high value, but if stolen, they could end up in the wrong hands and have serious consequences.  

Some of the theft prevention details relate to the shipper, while others apply to the carrier. One of the biggest precautions that shippers can take is appropriate packaging. Packaging that clearly states what is inside can be an invitation to potential theft. Nondescript packaging with no mention of the product inside will be less appealing.  

Reputable shipping companies that move high value, sensitive freight should offer a range of services that enhance safety and security. 

Services that increase security and reduce the likelihood of theft include:

  • Frequent contact with the driver throughout the course of the shipment
  • Continuous GPS tracking
  • Team drivers
  • Escort Services
  • Direct route with no additional stops

These services are in addition to standard offerings such as locked and secured trailers. It’s worth noting that some of the above services incur an additional fee. This is due to the fact that they can require additional manpower and time from the driver.

One of the most impactful ways to protect your pharmaceuticals from theft is to have an honest and transparent conversation with your shipping partner. Letting them know what you’re shipping and what level of protection your products need is the best course of action. When this happens, your shipping partner will be able to provide the best solution available to suit your needs.

R+L Global Logistics works alongside you throughout the entire shipping process to ensure that your valuable freight is safe and secure. We offer all of the services listed above as part of our High Risk/High Value freight option. In addition to those, we even provide origin and destination inspection photos and also offer increased insurance coverage should your pharmaceuticals need it.

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

Warehousing for Wholesale Drug Distribution

Chances are you’re moving large enough quantities of pharmaceutical products that you will need to store some of them. While some drugs can be easily stored at room temperature with little to no issue, others are more sensitive to moisture, air, light and heat.

The best place you can store pharmaceuticals is in a cool, dry place. If heat or moisture are introduced to medications, they can become less potent — or worse — go bad before their expiration date. For some pharmaceuticals, this can be a matter of life and death. 

These are general rules of thumb for medication, but some drugs have more specific requirements. Insulin, used to treat the effects from the disease diabetes, needs to be kept between 36 and 46 degrees fahrenheit in a refrigerator when not in use. While in use, it can be stored between 56 and 80 degrees.

Insulin will be reduced in quality should these guidelines not be met. This is just one example but there are several different kinds of drugs that must be temperature controlled or they will be rendered ineffective. Humidity, or really any moisture, is an enemy of pharmaceuticals. Particularly, capsules and pills can deteriorate quickly under heat and moisture. 

Taking things a step further, it would be an intelligent move to go with a Drug Distributor Accredited facility. This program was formed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) in 2004 to combat counterfeit drugs on behalf of the public.

The way this program completes this objective is by providing a third-party audit system that is entirely objective. The audit includes components such as:

  • Criminal background checks for key employees
  • Verifying all licenses are in order
  • Making sure proper security is in place
  • Observing that best practices are used for safe distribution
  • Providing an on-site examination of the storage facilities

If things are found to be satisfactory in all regards, the facility is recognized as an accredited Drug Distributor facility. This will signal to pharmacies affiliated with the NABP that your pharmaceuticals are not counterfeit, diverted from another source or contaminated.

Facilities accredited by this program undergo an annual review and are subject to a site survey every three years.

In addition to handling the shipping of your pharmaceuticals, we can also assist you in locating a qualified storage warehouse. R+L Global Logistics is a full-service 3PL can manage the safe and secure movement of your pharmaceuticals through the entire supply chain. Whether you're shipping medical equipment or any other products, we'll get the job done.

Pharmaceutical Transport with R+L Global Logistics

Once you’re ready to transport your pharmaceutical products R+L Global Logistics is here to help you. With over 30 years of experience, there isn’t a scenario we haven’t come across or a problem we can’t craft a workable solution to.

Our team will do everything within our power to protect your valuable pharmaceuticals. Our refrigerated shipping provides precise temperature control and monitoring. Coupled with our High Risk/High Value coverage, you can have peace of mind knowing that your products are in good hands. 

We have a 99.5 percent on-time rate and the ability for you to track your shipment with real-time freight visibility. In the unlikely event that an issue arose, our customer service team is standing by to address any concerns you might have.

R+L Global Logistics offers additional services such as:

When you’re ready to transport your pharmaceutical products, contact us for a comprehensive and transparent freight shipping quote. You can call us at (866) 353-7178 or click Get a Quote below. Our shipping and logistics experts are ready to help you.

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.
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