How Garvey Can Help Optimize Cold Chain Medical Packaging

Mar 22, 2022 | Vial Drying

The proper storage and processing of medical products are essential to maintain their efficacy and safety. 

If you were to look at the instructions on any medical packaging, you’d see the manufacturer provides recommendations on where to store the drug and the ideal temperature range. These aren’t arbitrary instructions. All medications that go to market are tested carefully and undergo a rigorous regulatory roadmap to specify where and how they should be stored and processed.

However, maintaining potency and safety is becoming more challenging with the advent of cutting-edge cell and gene therapies, vaccines, and other complex drugs that contain active ingredients with precise temperature requirements. A unique cold chain system may even be required for some pharmaceuticals.

Why is packaging so tricky in a cold chain?

Many new drugs and vaccines require ultra-low temperatures (-20 to -80 °C) for storage and distribution. This low-temperature uninterrupted logistics network involving manufacturing, storage, and distribution is the cold chain. As you might guess, a cold chain has some inherent challenges.

One of the most common risk factors in the cold chain exists even before these temperature-sensitive drugs leave the manufacturing facility: labeling and packaging. 

In this phase, pharmaceuticals are taken out of low-temperature storage. This is necessary to apply the proper labeling and packaging. But every second out of the cold chain adds additional risk. The drug is exposed to temperature excursions, which could lead to irreversible damage to the drug and affect its potency and safety. 

As experts in medical packaging for cold storage applications, the Garvey team has highlighted a few products and technologies below that mitigate risk in this crucial part of the cold chain process. 

We will explain how pharmaceutical companies can use Garvey products to preserve the potency of their life-saving medical products and increase throughput, so more products reach the end-user.

Automatic Vial Dryers

In a cold chain, vaccines and other temperature-sensitive medical products, like insulin, are kept in glass vials stored in freezers. These vials must be labeled before they are shipped and progress to the next link of the cold chain. But this creates a problem for manufacturers as the vials need to be taken out of cold storage for inspection and labeling.

When a vial is removed from the cold chain, condensation forms on the glass, which must completely dry before being inspected and labeled. In many facilities, vials are placed in a conditioning room where it could take as long as 48 hours for the condensation to dissipate. 

This is not ideal, and the product’s potency may already have diminished. It could still be very effective for its desired application, but there is room for improvement to reduce time out of the cold chain. 

Garvey developed an automatic vial drying system that combines our patented pressure-less loop technology with a high-volume laminar flow accumulator, which dries the vials in minutes and feeds them in a single file to a labeler or inspection machine at rates up to 900 vials per minute. The entire process takes only 15 minutes, significantly improving existing standard methods for labeling and inspecting vials in the cold chain before they are shipped.

Automatic Tray Loaders

With increased demand and flexibility requirements, pharmaceutical companies needed a way to increase their throughput. We discovered that many manufacturers were dealing with bottlenecks or relying on manual loading trays. They didn’t have the equipment to handle varying vial sizes or loading patterns. 

Any delay in loading affects other parts of the cold chain, leading to additional issues and loss of revenue. 

We developed an automatic vial tray loading system that combines tray loading with accumulation to solve these problems, allowing pharmaceutical processors to load, accumulate, and lane products. Our approach enables manufacturers to use multiple tray loaders for different loading patterns and vial sizes at their desired throughput. We also designed our tray-loading solution to mitigate vial damage, a frequent issue with current tray loading systems. 

We have enabled pharmaceutical manufacturers to address existing bottlenecks in processing through our automatic tray loading solutions and increase their throughput by as much as 30%.

How can Garvey address your cold chain packaging needs?

The cold chain is a complex network of processes and equipment that helps manufacturers process, store, and ship their products to the end-user. In the past two years, we have seen how vital the cold chain is for the wide-scale distribution of vaccines at an unprecedented level, but many improvements can still be made. 

We have highlighted two essential products in automatic vial dryers and tray loading systems that address various inefficiencies and bottlenecks by utilizing accumulation, pressure-less loop technology, and more. But that is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg for our pharmaceutical solutions.

We encourage you to view all of our pharmaceutical solutions or contact us directly to learn more about some of the exciting things our engineering team is working on that could support your upcoming project.