Home > Sustainability in clinical trial supplies: Navigating a new course

Sustainability in clinical trial supplies: Navigating a new course

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Clinical trials are essential for advancing medical research and treatments, yet they also pose significant environmental challenges.

As global awareness and regulations push the healthcare industry towards sustainability, rethinking clinical trial logistics becomes imperative to align patient care with environmental responsibility.

Explore the challenges

Temperature-controlled logistics: Maintaining strict temperature controls is critical for the integrity of clinical trials. Traditional methods, while effective, often rely on energy-intensive solutions that increase carbon emissions. The challenge lies in adopting refrigeration technologies that minimise environmental footprints without compromising the safety and efficacy of medical products.

Global distribution networks: The necessity to conduct trials across continents means that samples and medications travel long distances, leading to substantial carbon outputs. The complexity increases with the need to ensure timely deliveries across diverse regulatory landscapes, making efficient route optimisation and mode of transport critical factors in reducing overall emissions.

Excessive packaging waste: Clinical trials require stringent packaging standards to protect sensitive materials, leading to a significant amount of waste, particularly with single-use plastics. Developing packaging solutions that are both protective and sustainable is crucial for reducing this impact. The industry must explore innovative materials and designs that offer recyclability and reusability without sacrificing functionality.

Implementing sustainable practices

Just-in-time (JIT) inventory management: JIT approaches can dramatically reduce the need for large inventories, decreasing the resources required for storage and the risk of waste from expired or unused materials. By aligning shipment schedules closely with clinical needs, JIT systems not only enhance operational efficiency but also lower associated environmental impacts.

Adoption of green technologies: Integrating electric or hybrid vehicles into logistics fleets can significantly cut down greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, exploring solar or other renewable energy sources for powering storage facilities or refrigeration equipment can contribute to a more sustainable logistics chain.

Collaborative and centralised distribution: By fostering collaboration among various stakeholders in the clinical trial process, such as pharmaceutical companies, research institutions, and logistics firms, more streamlined and efficient distribution models can be developed. Centralising distribution points reduces the distances materials need to travel, which can considerably decrease transportation emissions.

Innovative and sustainable packaging: Transitioning to eco-friendly packaging options is vital. Materials such as biodegradable plastics, recycled polymers, and plant-based alternatives can substantially lower the ecological footprint. Moreover, implementing reusable containers and systems for the return and reuse of packaging materials can revolutionise logistics practices.

Long-term benefits and strategic considerations

Adopting these sustainable practices requires upfront investment but offers significant long-term benefits, including compliance with global environmental standards, cost savings from reduced material use and waste, and enhanced corporate image. Companies that proactively integrate sustainability into their logistics strategies are likely to gain competitive advantages as regulations tighten and consumer preferences shift towards more environmentally responsible products.

Conclusion

The journey towards sustainable clinical trial logistics is complex but necessary. As the healthcare sector continues to evolve, integrating green practices into the fabric of clinical operations will not only lead to better environmental outcomes but also support the primary goal of improving patient care. Through strategic investment in innovative solutions and collaborative efforts, the industry can set a new standard for sustainability in clinical trials.


SUSTAINABILITY AT AKESA

In 2024, Akesa was awarded a bronze sustainability rating from EcoVadis in recognition of its commitment to sustainable and ethical business practices, and environmental stewardship. Akesa’s bronze-level recognition not only marks its debut in the annual EcoVadis rankings but also distinguishes it within the top 35% of over 130,000 companies evaluated worldwide across more than 220 industries in the last year.

Partner with Akesa

Akesa places a strong emphasis on maintaining close working relationships with marketing authorisation holders to ensure efficient lead times and access to documentation, to facilitate a smooth and compliant clinical trial supply process.

Image by Vlad Hilitanu on Unsplash.

INSIGHT

AUTHOR

George Vlachos
Co-Founder and Director