Pharmaceutical brands have increased challenges when it comes to shipping due to stringent health and hygiene requirements. Therefore, it's important for pharmaceutical supply chains to limit the risk as much as possible by ensuring all aspects of the shipping system meet the standards needed.
In an industry expected to be worth $1.12 trillion in 2022, according to Evaluate, shipping disasters in the pharmaceutical market can be costly. In temperature-related problems alone, Cargosense say it was estimated that the healthcare industry as a whole lost $35 billion in 2014. The costs incurred are not just the value of the products lost but also replacement, cause analysis and unused logistics.
Choosing the right material for pharmaceutical pallets is a crucial part of risk mitigation both in terms of financial loss and in protecting the consumer.
The problem with wooden pallets
Concerns around the suitability of wooden pallets hit the news when several big pharmaceutical companies had to recall their products due to contamination. Following complaints from consumers of mouldy and mildew-like smells, it was discovered that a chemical fungicidal and flame retardant treatment called 2,4,6-tribromophenol (TBP), combined with excess moisture in the pallets, had resulted in the production of the chemical 2,4,6-Tribromoanisole (TBA). The presence of the chemical on the product the consumer received caused instances of various stomach issues such as vomiting and diarrhoea. Over a 3 year period it is estimated that cost to the industry was in the region of $1 billion, according to Pharmaceutical Manufacturing.
The problem resulted in the FDA issuing a statement warning that wooden pallets treated with TBP should be used with precaution in any area of drug packaging or storage.
Cleaning and disinfection
Plastic pallets are unable to harbour mould or moisture due to the sealed nature of the surfaces.
A real benefit to the pharmaceutical industry of plastic pallets is that they are immune to the type of contamination described above. Plastic pallets won't harbour mould or moisture due to the smooth and sealed nature of the surfaces.
Easily cleaned and disinfected, with no risk of excess moisture, plastic pallets are suitable for use in areas where hygiene is paramount. Some pharmaceutical companies limit the use of pallets within their facility to plastic. Although goods may arrive on wood, they are transferred onto hygienic plastic to make cleaning and disinfection easier. The goods are only transferred back onto a wooden pallet when they have been suitably packaged to prevent contamination. As yet, the only instances of drugs having to be recalled due to contamination during the shipping process have involved the use of wooden pallets.
Some drugs, as many as seven in 10 according to icontainers, require temperature-controlled environments throughout the shipping process. They also report a change of as little as 2 degrees Celsius could render the drug useless and suggest that the pharmaceutical industry already loses around $150,000 every time a temperature issue occurs in a shipment considered as small.
Plastic pallets can withstand more extreme temperatures than their wooden counterparts. Some plastic variations can withstand temperatures ranging from below freezing to 60 degrees Celsius. Wooden pallets can suffer in the low temperatures required for pharmaceutical shipping and are less heat and fire resistant than their plastic counterparts. Being able to withstand high temperatures also means that plastic pallets are able to be sanitised in methods involving high heat input.
For more information about how our hygienic plastic shipping pallets can meet the needs of the pharmaceutical shipping industry, contact the Eco Pallets team today.