What are the biggest threats to the pharma industry’s growth?

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The pharmaceutical industry is growing and airfreight plays an imperative role in supporting this but what could hinder this growth?

“We are now in a situation of capacity constraints and rates are high and pharmaceutical companies feel the pain of that,” explains Marcel Kuijn, global head of pharmaceutical logistics Air France KLM Martinair Cargo.

“We, as an airline, make good money from our cargo business but it doesn’t compensate for the losses on the passenger side. Gradually capacity will come back into the market and at a certain moment we may return to a situation of overcapacity on part of the lanes. This will put pressure on the rates. In order for us as an airline to continue to invest in the dedicated processes, facilities and services that our customers expect from us we will need a fair price.

“For pharmaceutical air transport to continue to grow it’s important that all parties in the chain, forwarders, airlines, ground handling agents and airports, continue to invest in processes and facilities.

“Another important factor is to agree industry standards that reduce complexity, allow for efficiency and facilitate the exchange of information.

“For example, data standards to make it easier for forwarders, airlines and GHAs to share milestone information giving them more control of the end-to-end process. I also see an opportunity in terms of CEIV compliance and audits.

“Air France and KLM have just been certified for the third time by IATA for CEIV Pharma. I’m wondering why forwarders are not allowed to use this certification by an independent auditor to confirm that AFKLM is compliant.

“Instead, we both need to spend time and money on an audit in which we go through the same checks as we did for the IATA audit. It’s important that we work together in the industry to capitalise on opportunities to reduce complexity because otherwise the cost of doing business becomes very high. “

Kuijn says pharmaceutical transportation is one of the “largest product segments” for AFKLMP and an aspect of the business that the company is investing in to develop further.

A well-publicised part of recent pharmaceutical operations has of course been Covid-19 vaccine distribution, which Kuijin says will continue to developing throughout 2022 and afterwards as well.

“Thus far, 1.2 billion doses of Covid vaccines have been shipped through COVAX. This is a very large amount but until now only 12% of the people in low income countries have received their first dose. This indicates that there is still a long way to go,” he says.

It has “without a doubt” been a rewarding feat to be involved in, Kuijin notes.

“We’re proud of what we achieved and of our contribution to the worldwide distribution of Covid vaccines. Airlines have not always been positively exposed in the media due to their need for government support and CO2 footprint but this allowed us to show the important role we play in ensuring that people have access to what they need. This doesn’t only apply to Covid vaccines but also to other types of pharmaceuticals (which can be equally life-saving) and other commodities.”