Richard W Smith, vice-president of global trade services at FedEx Express, explains to World Pharmaceutical Frontiers that, as patients become more aware of technological and medical advancements, personalised medicine is becoming more commonplace.

Today’s patients have joined an increasingly visible group of empowered consumers. These consumers are tech-savvy, informed, hands-on, global, and in control of when, where and how they are treated.

Personalised medicine is the result of these empowered patients seeking higher standards of care, in addition to the rapid adoption of new techniques in genomic and proteomic science. 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 improves patients’ outcomes.

Opportunities within and beyond healthcare

Personalised medicine presents a huge opportunity for the medical world; opening doors for industries not traditionally associated with healthcare. Fast becoming a lucrative industry, the global personalised medicine market is forecast to reach $2.4 trillion by 2022, at a CAGR of 11.8%: more than double the projected 5.2% annual growth for the overall healthcare sector. Europe, alone, sees potential for personalised medicine to treat 500 million patients by 2020.

Since the nature of personalised medicine is highly complex, 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 healthcare ecosystem, from regulators to manufacturers and suppliers. The logistics industry is 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

Personalised medicine can be expensive. Regulators demand rigorous clinical studies, and diagnostic tests are needed to track a treatment’s efficacy, imposing immense development costs, which impact margins and affordability.

An area that can ease these cost pressures is the supply chain, which represents 25% of pharma costs and over 40% of medical device costs. Even minor efficiency gains from reduced manufacturing lead-times and inventory levels could save billions of dollars. In the pharma industry, the average replenishment lead time from plant to distribution centre is 75 days. Agile supply management processes will ensure shorter replenishment lead times, avoiding complete loss of stock.

Maintenance of shipment integrity

Guaranteeing the integrity of personalised medicine shipments is as important as it is challenging. Take 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 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 and barometric pressure, while in transit. This allows for a quick response when issues arise.

Patient empowerment

Biologics, a key component of personalised medicine, needs reliable cold chain logistics to maintain quality throughout its 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, cold chain logistics in Europe is forecast to see double-digit growth in 2019.

As patients become increasingly informed and empowered, the challenges are mounting for personalised medicine and the supply chains serving as their lifelines.

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 line and more ground-breaking innovations, but in the well-being of millions of patients.