ASHP’s third Executive Forum on Cold Chain Management convened virtually March 28 to share strategies for anticipating and responding to drug product integrity and supply challenges in an evolving marketplace.
The meeting was the third in a series of events that brought together cold chain experts and pharmacy leaders to share ideas on optimizing the handling, storage, and transportation of medications. Forum attendees represented health systems, specialty pharmacies, wholesalers, distributors, pharmaceutical manufacturers, federal pharmacy, and other stakeholders.
The March 28 session was moderated by Jason Chou, system vice president of pharmacy operations for Ochsner Health in New Orleans, Louisiana. The main discussion topics were:
- Drug development and implications for the cold chain
- Leveraging advanced technologies for current and future cold chain needs
- Closing anticipated cold chain gaps
In an opening poll, 76% of forum participants indicated they felt somewhat prepared for future cold chain requirements, and 6% said they were very prepared.
Amanda Frick, senior clinical manager of Vizient’s Center for Pharmacy Practice Excellence, opened the forum with an overview of anticipated storage requirements for drug products that are expected to enter the market in the near future. Frick said the developmental pipeline includes a growing share of vaccines and other products that will require cold storage and transit.
Forum participants noted that products requiring ultralow temperature storage are also on the rise and need to be accounted for in cold chain planning.
Drug industry representatives explained that manufacturers consider cold chain requirements early in the drug development process. One representative confirmed that his company has shelved early-stage products with unmanageable storage and transit needs.
The session on technology featured remarks from Joseph Maki, vice president of pharmacy for Novant Health, who shared his organization’s experience using aerial drones to deliver medications to patients in North Carolina.
Overall, the forum participants were intrigued by the project but noted that implementation hurdles, such as issues with federal regulations, local geography, and delivery coordination, still need to be resolved.
Forum participants also agreed on the need for integrated, interoperable, real-time product monitoring and tracking technologies that support proactive approaches to meeting regulatory requirements and maintaining product integrity throughout the supply chain.
During the session on closing gaps in cold chain management, many participants focused on the need to reduce packaging waste and improve the sustainability of product handling processes. Industry experts said they are pursuing solutions to sustainability challenges.
Some participants noted that patients are increasingly asking for greener packaging material options. One attendee indicated that their organization has signed onto the federal Health Sector Climate Pledge to reduce emissions and improve climate resilience.
In general, participants with so-called closed loop delivery systems were better able to recycle products than attendees whose packages are mostly sent to unaffiliated outside recipients.
The forum’s two previous meetings examined how the cold chain affects health systems and how organizations manage temperature excursions. Each forum was organized in conjunction with the ASHP Innovation Center and supported by a grant from Cold Chain Technologies.
A resource guide will be published on the ASHP Innovation Center website and a detailed overview of the findings from the three meetings will be published in an upcoming issue of AJHP.