Strategy

Delivering on the Vast Potential of Personalised Medicine

by Richard W. Smith, Vice President of Global Trade Services, FedEx Express

Patients in the 21st century have joined an increasingly visible group of “empowered consumers”. These consumers are tech-savvy, informed, hands-on, global and, increasingly, in control of when, where and how they are treated.

Personalised medicine is the exciting result of these empowered patients seeking higher standards of care and the rapid adoption of new techniques in genomic and proteomic science. Defined as “the right treatment for the right person at the right time”, personalised medicine takes into account patients’ genetic profiles and predictive reactions to treatments, which, driven by clinical trials, dramatically increases the efficacy of treatments and ultimately improves patient outcomes.

Treatments of critical illnesses such as Alzheimer’s have today transformed into a participatory process. People fearing they are at risk of inheriting Alzheimer’s no longer content themselves with awaiting what might or might not come. With information once only accessible to healthcare professionals, these people, now on their own initiative, request for advanced screening techniques and experimental treatments.

Opportunities within and beyond healthcare

Personalised medicine not only presents a huge opportunity for the medical world, it also opens doors for industries not traditionally associated with healthcare. Fast becoming a lucrative industry, the global personalised medicine market is forecasted to reach US$2.4tr through 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.8 per cent – more than double the projected 5.2 per cent annual growth for the overall healthcare sector. In Asia Pacific alone, a large population base, high market penetration and global collaboration will lead to a whopping 13 per cent growth through 2022.

Since the nature of personalised medicine is highly complex, in order to realise this potential, the healthcare sector must look beyond its borders and rely on cross-sector collaboration. Driving further innovation and greater efficiency will require the skills and resources of the entire ecosystem, from regulators to manufacturers to suppliers. Swiftly moving a biomarker produced in the US to a patient in Asia Pacific for a much-needed screening for cancer, for example, would otherwise be impossible.

The logistics industry, therefore, emerges as an important stakeholder. Its expertise in managing complex supply chains is key for the healthcare sector to adapt to new market realities and harness the opportunities caused by this disruption.

Supply chain enables greater possibilities

Reducing costs
Personalised medicine can be expensive. Regulators’ demands for rigorous clinical studies, along with the need for diagnostic tests to track a treatment’s efficacy, impose immense development costs, which impact margins for healthcare players and affordability for patients.

One area that can ease these cost pressures is the supply chain, which currently represents nearly 25 per cent of pharma costs and more than 40 per cent of medical device costs. Even minor efficiency gains from shortened manufacturing lead times and slashed inventory levels could free up billions of dollars for the industry.

In the pharma industry today, the replenishment lead time from plant to distribution centre is still 75 days on average. Agile supply management processes will ensure shorter replenishment lead times, thereby avoiding critical stockouts.

Maintaining shipment integrity
Guaranteeing the integrity of personalised medicine shipments is as important as it is challenging. Take, for instance, autologous cell therapy products, which are developed from the patient’s own cells. Since the products are fully personalised, any damage during the shipping process, however minor, could be life-endangering. Logistics providers have developed solutions to address such risks. One example is SenseAware® powered by FedEx, which provides near real-time visibility into a shipment’s location, temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and a range of other in-transit variables. This allows for a quick response when issues arise.

Controlling temperatures
Biologics, a key component of personalised medicine, require reliable cold chain logistics to maintain its quality throughout its entire journey. This reliability becomes even more important as the healthcare sector looks to emerging markets, where warm climates and large distances add to the existing challenges. Consequently, healthcare cold chain logistics in Asia Pacific is forecasted to see double-digit growth through 2020.

Cadence Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, is one of the many that benefit from cold chain logistics. They managed to expedite a massive 106-pallet shipment of their acetaminophen injection from Anagni, Italy to Memphis, US using our integrated air-and-ground cold chain solutions, which include a Boeing 777 freighter equipped with controlled room temperature (CRT), thermal blankets as well as customs clearance support. The result? They successfully captured the overwhelming demand for their product through an improved response time – at a decreased cost.

As patients become increasingly informed and empowered, the challenges are mounting for personalised medicine and the supply chains that serve as their lifelines. In order to bring to fruition the vast potential of this fast-emerging sector, healthcare players must work in harmony with their industry peers, governments and logistics providers. The benefits will be seen not just in the bottom lines of businesses and more groundbreaking innovations, but critically, in the well-being of millions of patients.

About the Author

As Vice President of Global Trade Services, Richard W. Smith leads all US-based international operations for FedEx Express. He is responsible for ensuring global regulatory compliance, providing customers with regulatory assistance, measuring and improving global clearance performance, providing planning and engineering support, developing and implementing US International line haul solutions, maximising US export freight profitability and designing and executing specialised services for the life sciences industry and other target verticals.

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