Pharmaceutical transportation types and services


Vehicles for pharmaceutical transport can be refrigerated, chilled or isothermal. Between the premises of the manufacturer and the distribution warehouse, large refrigerated trucks are employed for the transportation of the goods. When delivering to a distribution center or making local deliveries, isothermal vans or smaller chilled vehicles are often employed.

Any kind of vehicle that is used in the delivery of pharmaceuticals is required to adhere to certain specifications regarding temperature, cleanliness, and insulation in order to maintain the goods’ high level of quality.

Pharmaceutical Transport & Types of Pharma Shipments
It’s hard to discuss pharmaceutical transportation in full without noting the significance of cold chain visibility. Refrigeration and temperature control are critical in maintaining the quality and stability of pharmaceutical goods before, during, and after their journey through the supply chain. According to Shipwaves, temperature-controlled transportation is required for seven of the top ten medications in the United States. A product may be ruined by even the tiniest temperature change, such as 2 degrees.

As a result, from the point of manufacturing through last-mile delivery, quality must be maintained. This is why cold chain logistics is so critical in pharmaceutical temperature-controlled product transportation.

365Health does an excellent job of outlining the steps:
  • Supply

    A factory produces and packages the medications, vaccines, and pharmaceutical items.

  • Transportation

    Medications and pharmaceutical items are often carried in refrigerated or insulated trucks. These trucks are subjected to periodic inspections to ensure that they are in good working order in order to preserve merchandise at the proper temperature.

  • Storage

    Pharmaceutical items may be placed in cold storage before being dispensed. Before pharma items reach their ultimate destination, a refrigerated warehouse might serve as a stopover.

  • Market

    In general, delivery to the ultimate destination where the pharmaceutical is sold or administered is the last stage in the cold chain logistics process.

The types of pharma cool temp shipping containers generally fall into three ranges:
  • Ambient

    (controlled room temperature, 20°C-25°C) – Pills, capsules, tablets, etc.

  • Refrigerated

    (2°C to 8°C) – Vaccines (Polio, Measles, Tetanus, Hepatitis B, Smallpox, etc.; insulin, eye drops, etc.)

  • Cryogenic

    (Below 0°C to -150°C) – Tissue products, biosamples used in clinical trials, new cellular/gene therapies, certain COVID vaccines).

Maintaining proper temperature ranges, however, is far from the sole problem for shippers. Many pharmaceutical medicines may be adversely affected by dampness, light, vibration, and shocks, among other factors.

Required Container characteristics and kinds
Pharmaceutical goods are particularly prone to deterioration, and their quality has a direct impact on their reaction and efficacy. As a result, it’s critical to make sure the material’s packaging is appropriate.

Pharmaceutical packaging is critical because it protects the substance, aids in identification, enhances transportation ease, and offers information about the contents without physically interfering with the product.

Containers are things that are used to keep a variety of pharmaceutical medicines without coming into direct contact with them.

Required Container characteristics and kinds

Pharmaceutical goods are particularly prone to deterioration, and their quality has a direct impact on their reaction and efficacy. As a result, it’s critical to make sure the material’s packaging is appropriate.

Pharmaceutical packaging is critical because it protects the substance, aids in identification, enhances transportation ease, and offers information about the contents without physically interfering with the product.

Containers are things that are used to keep a variety of pharmaceutical medicines without coming into direct contact with them.


There are many desirable properties of a container :

1) It should guard against mechanical damage to the contents:

Every pharmaceutical product is vulnerable to mechanical damage. Shaking during shipping might cause harm to a product (generally while transporting via land due to trucks or other vehicles). As a result, containers should protect their contents from such vibrations. A container should also be able to withstand the pressures and compressions that are imparted to medications during handling and transit. It should be shockproof and resistant to abrasions, since electrostatic damage to the materials might cause product damage. A container should also be capable of protecting its contents against penetration by sharp items.

2) It should protect the contents from environmental damage:

Pharmaceuticals’ quality and efficiency are affected by a variety of environmental influences. Temperature fluctuations are a key source of damage to a variety of pharmaceutical goods. Under all circumstances, a container should assist in maintaining the temperature and should not cause a rise or reduction in the temperature. It must be able to endure high levels of humidity in order for the packaging to stay intact and protect the contents from moisture damage. Containers must be able to defend against certain types of contamination. Some materials are photosensitive, meaning they deteriorate when exposed to light. For such items, special containers need be developed. Some organic materials, in particular, are prone to microbial breakdown. The contents of a container should be protected against microbial attacks.

3) Should be attractive and exquisite:

Aside from the pharmacological properties of the packaging material, the container should be pleasing to the eye. A product with a more exquisite appearance leaves a stronger impact on the buyer. Because the pharmaceutical business is so competitive, the customer’s initial impression of the product is based on its look rather than its contents. It should also be easier for the consumer to manage. It must be well labeled and provide appropriate information. A good container should be unaffected by the substance it holds. It should be able to endure variations in temperature and humidity. It should not interact with the product chemically or physically. The contents of the container should be stable. It should be non-toxic and durable enough to survive environmental harm and normal handling.


Types of containers

Containers can be classified into the following types based on their utility:

  1. Airtight containers

These containers prevent the contents from dust, moisture, and air. These are also called hermetic containers. Airtight containers have air-tight sealing or closing, which prevents moisture entry in the packaging. These types are commonly used for materials that are prone to degradation in contact with air or moisture.

  1. Light resistant containers

Some materials are light sensitive. They lose their characteristics on exposure to sunlight. Such types of materials are kept in light-resistant containers. They protect the contents from direct exposure to light. Many medicines are photosensitive and are stored in light-sensitive containers.

  1. Multi-dose containers

These types of containers are used to allow the withdrawal of multiple doses from the same container without affecting the quality, purity, or strength of the pharmaceutical dosage. Such types of containers often contain multiple doses of the product. These are generally used for injectables.

  1. Single-dose containers

These are special types of containers that are used for storing a single dose of the product. Parenteral products are generally stored in these types of containers. E.g., ampoules.

  1. Well closed containers

These are the common types of containers used generally in the markets to hold the products easily and in a well-closed environment. They protect the contents from loss during transportation, storage, handling, and sale.

  1. Aerosol containers

Aerosol containers are used to store aerosols. They are made up of suitable materials to withstand the pressure required to contain aerosols.

  1. Child-proof containers

These types of containers are used to protect the children from hampering the contents. Sometimes, the products are harmful to children and can cause a hazardous effect. To protect such products, they are fitted with closures that protect the package from the children.


Different types of containers are made up of different types of materials. The containers are made from the following types of materials :

  1. Plastic

    Plastics are synthetic polymers having high molecular weight. Plastic containers are commonly used in the packaging of Pharmaceuticals.

    Plastic containers are easy to produce. They are durable and flexible. They are highly resistant to breakage and are safe to use by customers.

    There are two types :

    1. Thermoplastics: which have the property of reshaping into other forms by heating and solidifying by cooling.
    2. Thermosets: which have the property of permanent shaping by heating to a certain temperature. They do not lose shape when heated.
  1. Glass

Glass is a widely used material for the packaging of Pharmaceuticals. Many pharmaceutical products are used for oral and local administration. Glass bottles are usually the first choice for packaging.

Glass is basically made up of silicon dioxide with altered physicochemical properties obtained by adding oxides of sodium, magnesium, and iron. There are three types of glass:

  1. Type I – borosilicate glass: It is also called neutral glass. It is a highly inert type of glass and has a high melting point.
  2. Type II – treated soda-lime glass: These are made by de-alkalizing. They are used to store alkali-susceptible materials.
  3. Type III – regular soda-lime glass: These are untreated regular soda-lime glass containing high amounts of alkaline oxides. They are used to store solid dosage forms.
  1. Metal

Mainly three metals are used for making containers using metals: Aluminum, Tin, and Lead.

Lead is poisonous and is therefore seldom used for selective purposes. Tin is the most inert material for packaging but is very costly. Aluminum is more reactive than tin but is cheap and easily available


Pharmaceutical Transportation Challenges

Pharmaceutical transportation is one of the most difficult aspects of the supply chain, and it’s easy to see why. The cargoes are normally fairly precious, and they are particularly vulnerable to mishaps that would make them unusable.

Taking a deeper look, the following are some of the unique challenges:

  • Pharmaceuticals have diverse and individualized properties that must be taken into account with each shipment.
  • Improperly carried medications pose serious health dangers to patients.
  • The United Nations, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the Drug Enforcement Agency, as well as state and municipal standards, all have rules and regulations controlling pharmaceutical items.
  • Temperature, humidity, and, in certain situations, exposure to light and vibration, must all be strictly controlled.
  • Due to the specific equipment and measures required to safeguard the integrity of shipments and the value of the cargo, shipping and insurance prices are higher.
  • There is a scarcity of competent drivers. Operators must be well-versed in both the goods and the laws and regulations that govern them.


Best Practices in Pharmaceutical Transport

365Health adheres to these best practices, which can help assure cargo safety and integrity, as well as reduce the loss of spoiled or useless supplies.


  • Make use of visibility solutions that span the whole supply chain. Real-time monitoring of temperature, humidity, light, vibration, and shock events should be included in the tracking of each cargo through every step of the pharmaceutical shipping process.
  • Data recording is critical not just for tracking current shipments but also for detecting trends and opportunities for improvement.
  • The golden rule of pharmaceutical transportation is to know your goods. It’s crucial to know which items are susceptible to changes in temperature, humidity, moisture, and shock events.
  • Not only do you need to know the manufacturer’s recommended best practices for handling and shipping each pharmaceutical product, but you also need to follow all federal, state, and municipal restrictions.
  • FDA CFR 21 Part 11, CGMP requirements, DEA controlled substance rules, and state-specific DOT hazardous material legislation for shipping live organisms or chemicals are all included.
  • Consider all of your temperature-control choices. Some of the more typical methods are refrigerated or insulated trucks and trailers, individual cooling equipment such as freezers, dry ice, and refrigerant gel packs.
  • Evaluate packaging. Pharmaceutical distribution often necessitates the use of specialized packaging, such as corrugated shipping boxes, biodegradable air pillows, and insulated foam coolers, to mention a few. When appropriate, don’t overlook the UN-compliant hazardous shipment labels and placards.
  • Secure and track your cargo at all times. Use complete visibility solutions and satellite monitoring to guarantee that your expensive pharmaceutical cargo is kept safe and secure during its trip.
  • When choosing a partner, do your research. Do not entrust your pharmaceutical shipments to just any 3PL or transport service provider. All of the necessary licenses and permissions to prepare and transport pharmaceutical shipments will be held by the proper partners such as 365Health.