Diminishing vaccine wastage: next-gen of temperature-controlled packaging 2 April 2012 Elisabeth Fischer
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Disruptions in the cold supply chain of temperature-sensitive drugs are a major contributor to global vaccine wastage. Elisabeth Fischer profiles the next generation of packaging materials, including new types of phase change materials and foams which promise to keep medicines cool, even in the hottest temperatures.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates the global vaccine wastage currently amounts to 50% for lyophilised and to 25% for liquid vaccines. Arguably one of the biggest contributors to this wastage is disruption in the cold chain supply. Temperature-sensitive vaccines have to be stored at a constant temperature of 2°C-8°C to not lose their effectiveness, and a stable temperature must be maintained from the laboratory to the point of administration to the patient. "Temperature excursions could not only prove wasteful and result in pricey product losses, but also pose health risks." Any temperatures outside the optimum range could not only prove wasteful and result in pricey product losses, but also pose health risks to patients. In recent years, temperature-controlled packaging technology has been refined and advanced, and standards and controls have been established by the WHO and UNICEF. However, traditional cooling methods such as polystyrene cartons, polyethylene foam or air pocket products that typically package vaccines in dry ice or gel packs are still restricted in their timeframe. Especially in developing countries, where refrigeration is limited, this is still an enormous challenge. This need for better and improved temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products is boosting research for more efficient temperature-controlling packaging. In the years ahead, technologies such as new phase-change materials, moulded technical insulation foams and natural materials, such as sheep wool, promise to pave the way to a more efficient and profitable sensitive drugs and vaccines supply chain. Phase-change materials
One of the most promising applications for vaccine delivery in places where refrigeration is restricted by technical standards are phase change materials (PCMs). A substance with a high heat of fusion, it melts and solidifies at certain temperatures and is capable of storing and releasing large amounts of energy. One natural PCM the pharmaceutical industry has been using for years is ice, which melts at 0°C. However, the effectiveness of vaccines and temperature-sensitive drugs can be severely damaged if they freeze. To diminish the risk of over-freezing temperature-sensitive drugs - and with it loosing out on millions of dollars of profit - packaging giant Sonoco recently introduced packaging which uses a natural PCM to keep the pharmaceuticals at a constant temperature between 2°C-8°C. The Greenbox, developed by the company's ThermoSafe business, uses a patented renewable plant-based PCM that can keep vaccines cool for up to six days.
Greenbox uses a vegetable oil-based phase change material that keeps vaccines at a constant temperature of 2°C-8°C.
"The Greenbox eliminates a lot of extra refrigerants, which means that the packages can be lighter, they can carry a larger amount of product in a smaller amount of space," explained ThermoSafe marketing director D'Arcy Ryan. "One natural phase change material the pharmaceutical industry has been using for years is ice." "They're cheaper to ship, they're cheaper to warehouse, they're very easy to pack up. Another unique characteristic is that it's 100% reusable and recyclable - it's got a zero landfill footprint." According to Ryan, this is the package's main advantage, besides its ability to keep temperatures stable. "You can recondition the package and use it over and over again. We know for example that the liquid in the vegetable-oil based...
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