Etihad ships a landmark in COVID treatment


Sotrovimab, a landmark treatment for COVID-19, may have seemed a distant dream a year ago but last night, Abu Dhabi Department of Health, Rafed, GSK, and Etihad Cargo made this dream a reality for citizens of the UAE.

This expedited landmark shipment makes the world’s newest anti-viral treatment for COVID-19, Sotrovimab, available for early treatment of COVID-19 patients in the Middle Eastern country.

ACW exclusively interviewed Martin Drew, senior vice president sales and cargo, Etihad Aviation Group, Rashed Al Qubaisi, CEO, Rafed and Jeffrey Kemprecos, head, communications, government affairs & market access, GSK about the logistics behind revolutionary new medicine.

The Sotrovimab shipment

An innovative treatment

“In adult patients meeting certain criteria, Sotrovimab has been shown in interim trials to reduce the risk of hospitalisation for more than 24 hours or death by 85% compared to placebo,” explained Kemprecos from GSK.

Although the UAE has performed exceptionally well in achieving high levels of immunisation, therefore reducing the number of new COVID cases, there are still cases being recorded.

“This is why health authorities have insisted on expediting deliveries, to ensure that newly emerging, innovative treatments are available to the patients in need,” Kemprecos added.

A long journey

“It is a long journey from medicines and vaccines discovery and development to manufacturing and delivery to the nearly 150 markets where GSK operate today.

“Ensuring delivery is even more of a challenge when trying to meet an accelerated delivery timeline, demanding creative thinking, flexibility and innovative solutions.

“We’ve enjoyed a very close partnership with Etihad Cargo these past few weeks as we worked against very demanding timelines to meet the needs of the health authorities and the population here in the UAE,” said Kemprecos.

Other than the USA, which authorised emergency use of Sotrovimab, the UAE has been the first country in the world to issue a marketing approval for the new drug.

Once the landmark agreement was reached between the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, Rafed, and GSK, the planning for the first consignment took only three weeks from production to delivery as GSK expedited the process, cutting the delivery time by an impressive 60%.

Medication in motion

This first shipment of Sotrovimab is the first of a series of three batches destined for Abu Dhabi.

“This shipment consisted of thousands of individual doses with two more to follow within the coming few weeks to maintain a steady flow of the treatment into the UAE,” explained Drew.

Martin Drew, Etihad

“It required a strict 2-8°C environment in order to maintain the product integrity across the whole supply chain from origin plant through to being delivered to the final consignee warehouse. We worked with Envirotainer utilising a RAP E2 electrical active container which has the capability to control the required temperature throughout the journey.

“Etihad Cargo’s IATA CEIV certified PharmaLife product provides a strict protocol with all pharmaceutical shipments which provides top priority to vaccines and medicines, while maintaining product integrity throughout the supply chain.”

A landmark milestone

Rafed’s Al Qubaisi noted that this was made possible as Abu Dhabi has invested significantly in innovative solutions to handle the increased demand in pharmaceuticals and biologics during the past year. This has included the establishment of the Rafed Distribution Centre, which provides cold storage technology to cater for all temperature bands.

“Abu Dhabi has illustrated its success as a logistics hub throughout the pandemic and cemented its position as a pharmaceutical and biologics hub,” added Drew.

“Its strategic location means we are able to reach more than 3.6 billion people across the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

“Through various private-public partnerships, we have already carried millions of vaccines across our network and using our special charters, and this latest shipment further illustrates the leading position Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates occupies being the first to bring the best in class solutions.

“This shipment represents a landmark milestone and supports Abu Dhabi’s role in the fight against COVID-19.”