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Have you ever wondered how the pharmaceuticals reach their final destinations?


Have you ever wondered how the pharmaceuticals reach their final destinations? This article will discuss five myths and facts of moving pharmaceuticals by airfreight. We will use the experience of LATAM CARGO, the first airline in the American Continent awarded by the International Aviation Transportation Agency (IATA) with the Center of Excellence of Independent Validators (CEIV) PHARMA certification as an Airline, as well as certified as a PHARMA products handler in their Miami Hub.


Myth #1: All active containers could be handled like regular boxes. False! Some active containers need specific environment temperatures in order to function properly and all of them need special handling since they are turn on during the entire trip. If the temperature of the environment is to low the shipment could get frozen.


Fact #1: In order to fly pharmaceuticals the airline has to conduct strict processes to maintain the cold chain of the product. In LATAM Cargo two lines of processes can be followed: Active and Passive processes. “Active” would be the handling of containers that have internal active temperature control through electricity or dry ice components, and “Passive” would be the handling of the pharmaceuticals freights by maintaining the temperature through coolers or control room temperatures (CRT).


Myth #2: Every Standard Operations Procedures manual (SOP) is a standard copy given by a regulatory authority. False! Each airline decides if they want to have an SOP for specialized cargo, or if they do not.  Airlines are responsible for creating the document with their customized procedures.


Facts #2: In order to minimize the exposure of pharmaceuticals to temperature excursions the airline has in place standard operations procedures manuals (SOP). LATAM CARGO has two strict and detailed SOPs, one for Active processes and one for Passive processes indicating how the processes should be from booking to delivery.


Myth #3: The main responsible of maintaining the temperature of the pharmaceuticals shipments are the handlers and airlines. False! Shippers have to pay meticulous attention to the packaging of pharmaceuticals because those materials have direct contact with the product and guarantee the protection of the product the entire transportation.


Fact #3: In order to make the commitments transparent between all parties airlines establish Service level agreements (SLA) with their clients. In LATAM CARGO the SLA clarifies specific measures that must be kept, such as Tarmac times, active container leases terms, responsibilities of the clients, responsibilities of the airline, responsibilities of third party agents, contingency plans, exceptions and so on to guarantee that all parties would keep the right quality standards.


Myth #4: Every airline has to have the same standards when moving pharmaceuticals. FALSE! Due to regulatory absence in this field, the IATA release the CEIV PHARMA certification in 2014 to ensure that every part of the logistic chain involved in the cold treatment of pharmaceuticals are conducting every necessary procedures to ensure a correct pharmaceutical freight movement.


Fact #4: The movement of pharmaceuticals by airfreight is poorly regulated. LATAM CARGO in order to achieve the best international standard in moving pharmaceuticals obtains the Airline CEIV PHARMA certification in March 2017 and the Handler certification for its Miami hub in November 2017.


Myth #5: Every handling employee is able to handle pharmaceuticals. False! The person who is going to lead the handling process of the pharmaceuticals has to undergo several trainings in order to guarantee the good treatment of the shipments.


Fact #5: In order to manage and assess internal processes, airlines conduct trainings, continuous improvement and quality audits. At LATAM CARGO every pharmaceutical receiving a “passive” process will be protected by a Tyvek W20 thermo blanket and monitored by a data logger that will be reviewed by a quality team to maintain the consistency of the product, and to conduct corrective and preventive actions if the case is needed. Every cargo receiving an active process will feed a reporting data warehouse, as well as a system that will provide the status of the checks done constantly to the shipments and guarantee a quality management system similar to the one conducted for the passive Pharma processes.