12 May 2023 Insight Blog

Sustainability in clinical trial supply chains: the shift from an ideal to an economic imperative

Why sustainability matters in clinical supply chain management

In recent years, environmental concerns have taken up a significant portion of the public narrative. The outcome of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) policies to limit global temperature rises and adapt to impacts associated with climate change is the latest example. The pressure on the pharmaceutical industry to reduce the environmental impact of its activities, including clinical trials, is undeniable. However, beyond adhering to a globally-accepted moral code or institutional guidelines, why should pharmaceutical companies care about sustainability? What’s in it for you? Read below to learn why and how sustainability should be considered for clinical trial supply chains.

A shift in focus on sustainability in the clinical trial space

Global supply chains have become increasingly strained over the past years due to a variety of factors, most notably supply disruptions related to global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Due to material shortages, clinical trial sponsors are competing for a limited pool of drug manufacturing resources. Costs have increased, and thus drug waste has become an economic concern where, in previous years, wastage was not a priority.

Reducing drug waste

Drug wastage equates to increased costs, transport, and thus a larger carbon footprint. To minimise drug waste, two strategies may be explored:

Risk-based optimisation for clinical supplies

More than 25% of all clinical supplies that are packaged and labelled are never used, even with expense forecasting and implementing lean. In fact, for most companies, it is closer to 50%. A risk-based optimisation of clinical trial supplies can minimise drug waste and significantly cut trial supply costs. Utilising innovative data-driven software, programme optimisation allows a clinical trial to evolve with the required flexibility and right drug allocation at the right time, reducing trial drug needs by 20-60%.

Learn more about implementing an optimisation strategy

Novel clinical supply models

The flexibility offered by On-Demand Packaging & Labelling (or Packaging & Labelling just-in-time) eliminates waste and reduces trial costs. Clinical trials with expensive and limited supply medicines, in particular, can greatly benefit from packaging and labelling as needed. With On-Demand, clinical trial supplies are packaged and labelled after the receipt of the shipment request. Once a shipment request is received, only the requested quantity is packaged and labelled. This process therefore requires much less bulk drugs at the start.

Strategies for meeting increasing demand while reducing our environmental impact

According to Global Data, the number of initiated trials has increased by 59% from 2012 to 2021. The pressure to accelerate drug launches has encouraged sponsors to find new ways to optimise their supply chain and shorten timelines.

The greater the resources used for a clinical trial – human as well as material – the greater the environmental impact. At Clinigen, one of the ways we reduce our impact during shipping and distribution is by utilising reusable insulated shipper boxes when sending temperature-sensitive biological samples or IMPs to trial sites.

Ensuring that patients in need around the globe get the right medicine as quickly, as efficiently and as safely as possible should remain the primary goal of your clinical supplies management partner. Ultimately, a sustainably sound clinical supply chain will help clinical trial sponsors optimise resources and maintain their focus on getting required drugs to patients faster.

Choosing a sustainable partner

Clinigen conducted a full review of how our business model is clearly aligned to the sustainability agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a result, our Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) framework was rolled out with 17 key commitments under the four pillars of Environment, Products and Services, Our People and Responsible Business. We have set the goal of capturing and reporting global emissions and wastage data, which will be reported in end-of-year results and used to set global environmental objectives and initiatives.

Recycling and waste disposal are also promoted across the Group through education and audit through our Environmental Management System.

More on Clinigen’s sustainability model

By considering sustainability, Clinigen can help you serve a dual mission of meeting patient needs and addressing global environmental concerns. When you work with an experienced clinical supplies partner throughout your study, you can benefit from a customised supply strategy that meets the exact needs of your project. This can include introducing new methods of managing clinical trial supplies with built-in flexibility to reduce overall waste and streamline processes.

Contact us to learn how to limit waste, cut costs, and make your clinical supply chain more sustainable.