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AllianceRx Walgreens Prime creates cold-chain process for shipping temperature-sensitive specialty drugs


AllianceRx Walgreens Prime, one of the nation’s largest specialty and home delivery pharmacies, has developed a new patented cold-chain shipment packaging process for specialty medications, that is intended to help increase patient safety, improve patient outcomes and reduce waste.

It is the only specialty pharmacy to offer a patented cold-chain shipment packaging process, the chain said.

In specialty pharmacy, cold-chain distribution refers to the process of shipping medicines that require refrigerated storage. Maintaining the right temperatures is critical to ensuring the efficacy of specialty medications, including costly biologics and injectables, which have special storage or temperature requirements.

Ed Musisko, senior director of data science and analytics at AllianceRx Walgreens Prime, who helped develop the patented process, said that almost all specialty drugs have a two- to eight-degree Celsius requirement dictated within the Food and Drug Administration product approval.

“Our goal was to eliminate the potential for medicine going bad, which can impact the patient. It also prevents the need to reship orders, which is wasteful and costly. This application enables us to predict the experience of the shipment, then adjust packaging to prevent harm to the medicine, and ultimately to the patient’s treatment plan,” Musisko said.

Historically, specialty pharmacies have shipped medicine via universal pack out (accommodates wide range of temperatures but costly in terms of materials and shipping) or seasonal pack out (less expensive but can only handle temperatures for a specific season). Shipping via refrigerated trucks, while also effective, is cost-prohibitive.

Testing of the application took place at AllianceRx Walgreens Prime’s internal packaging test lab, located at its Pittsburgh facility. “We use an environmental chamber that can simulate the package experience during transits,” said Luke Holbrook, manager, engineering and logistics, and co-inventor. For instance, a package’s delivery route could include travel from a cold climate to a hot environment, with stops along the way.

The team also tested the process using International Safe Transit Association 7E standards to ensure the packaging procedures adhere to the manufacturer’s storage guidelines. These are the industry testing standards that thermal transport packaging uses in parcel delivery system shipment.

The new patented process also reduces waste and eliminates reship needs. In fact, AllianceRx Walgreens Prime anticipates a significant annual savings in reship costs.

“With this algorithm, we can select the best packaging for each individual order. While this process will have substantial financial benefit, ultimately the pride I carry on this patent is wrapped around patient safety and care. Our whole premise was to reliably deliver a stable product. AllianceRx Walgreens Prime continues to use innovation, technology, and process improvements to enhance how we service specialty pharmacy patients. We continue to make strides to find efficient methods to help keep our patients safe, happy and healthy.”




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