Healthcare logistics solutions evolve to meet increasing needs of specialty pharma

Yusen Logistics takes pride in its rich heritage and history to what is now a globally recognised supply chain solutions company with a highly diverse service portfolio. One of the most important industry sectors that the company has invested heavily in is the healthcare and pharmaceutical logistics arena. Here, it has developed specialist services and resources in order to unlock and create new value for its customers, and allow their supply chains to deliver strategic competitive advantages. The solutions it offers span global supply chains – from the supply of raw materials into manufacturing, to the delivery of finished drugs and devices to in-market distributors, hospitals, pharmacies and surgeries.

“The efforts we have made over the years in successfully growing our healthcare business globally have proven invaluable to a host of leading healthcare organisations in managing their supply chains effectively across countries, regions and internationally,” states Paul Rice, Yusen Logistics’ Business

Unit Director, responsible for Yusen’s Healthcare 4PL and Global Forwarding businesses. “The pace of change in the healthcare sector is a defining factor, and the supply chain has evolved to support the changing needs of patient care pathways. With the advent of a new era of medicines – what we call ‘specialty medicines’ – supply chains are having to adapt and reinvent in ways and pace never seen before – we are moving from evolution to revolution!

“The direction of travel of the industry is seeing a shift away from the shipping of pallets of pills to the movement of what are classified as high cost, high complexity, low volume, high touch medicines. They are often biologics – drugs derived from living cells – that are injectable or infused to treat complex or rare conditions such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and hepatitis,” Paul explains. “To put things into perspective, in 1990 there were as few as ten specialty drugs on the market. By 2015, there were 300, and today these types of medicine cover over 40 therapeutic categories and special disease states with over 500 drugs marketed. This

has understandably driven complexities within the supply chain, and the trend is expected to continue with estimates stating that in the US alone, by 2025 specialty medicines will account for 50 per cent of all spending on drugs.”

With the healthcare industry moving in such a direction, Yusen Logistics has taken a detailed look at the implications on the supply chain, focusing in particular on the distribution of specialty drugs to the point of care. “Specialty medicines typically come with their own high requirements, and usually require special handling, administration, unique inventory management, and a high level of patient monitoring and support,” Paul continues. “The distribution channel is also changing dramatically. Where one would traditionally deliver drugs to a wholesaler, we are now delivering directly to the point of care for the patient.

“What this means is that we now have to effectively support pharmaceutical companies throughout the entire life cycle of their products – from launch to maturity – by offering what we call a ‘white glove service’. This service revolves around several critical logistics requirements, such as ensuring high levels of temperature control across the entire supply chain and maintaining stringent quality standards above and beyond what you would typically find. There also tend to be significantly higher security and visibility standards applied to specialty medicines, including end-to-end track and trace in real-time, so that a client can monitor the progress of their goods at every stage.”

In the face of all of the above requirements, manufacturers still require an economic solution to meet their needs, and Yusen Logistics has responded to this by developing a dedicated healthcare control tower solution that offers an integrated distribution model. “Our control tower provides holistic, end-to-end management that encompasses the entire supply chain,” Paul goes on to detail. “Starting with the solution, we initially provide something of a consultancy service, often at the drug development stage, to support clients to design a distribution network that suits our clients’ particular product, conducing route risk assessments across every leg of the network to ensure that what we develop has the correct quality and security requirements in place at all times. We also tend to find our clients need back-office solutions, particularly involving order to cash and customer service functions, and most importantly an operating model that continuously evolves to improve the solution over the product lifecycle – it’s never a ‘once and done’ solution for specialty medicines.

“At its core, what our control tower offers is a GxP compliant high-service, time and temperature sensitive, multi-modal logistics solution. Included within it are specific functions dedicated to aspects such as warehousing – whether that be a regional distribution centre or a European distribution centre model – packaging, shipment planning and execution, real-time tracking and visibility, and trade compliance and execution services. We are also able to offer up invaluable data and insight gained from the use of the control tower to our clients, and we also use this ourselves to influence the continuous improvement of the solution itself.”

The message that Yusen Logistics is keen to share with both existing and prospective clients within the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry is that the sea change that it is ongoing from a logistics perspective is only going to increase in complexity moving forward. “As the rapidly evolving dynamics occurring within the healthcare arena show, it is clear that the requirement for high-service, high cost, high touch, low volume specialty drugs will only strengthen in the future,” Paul says. “As such, the need for a right first time, flawless execution logistics solution has never been greater and, with our healthcare control tower, Yusen Logistics stands ready to embrace the future.”

Yusen Logistics
Dedication to healthcare – your supply chain in safe hands
Multi-modal control tower solution dedicated to healthcare
A complete white glove logistics service