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Contingency Planning for Pharmaceuticals Imports

May 2, 2016

Avoiding clearance delays is critical for temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals shipments since they risk being spoiled at the port of clearance if no cold chain infrastructure is available.

FedEx Express has been investing in cold chain areas at airports to maintain the integrity of delayed international healthcare air shipments.

As a matter of fact, the FedEx Express hub in Memphis, the largest US port of entry with about 7% of total FDA import shipments in 2014, has just started operating a brand new bonded cold chain center. It includes about 1,000 square meters of thermally mapped and qualified temperature-controlled areas for contingency planning, and will serve as a model for other FedEx key locations.

What is the value of foreign pharmaceuticals imported into the United States? The Harmonized System (HS) tariff nomenclature has a full chapter dedicated to finished pharmaceuticals products (HS 30), making it possible to extract associated information from trade databases, such as the ones maintained by the United Nations and the US Department of Commerce.

  • Finished pharmaceutical products represent about 4% of the total value of imported goods in the American import portfolio.
  • $86B worth of foreign pharmaceuticals products entered the United States in 2015, making it the largest country importer by value of pharmaceutical products in the world.
  • Three European countries (namely Ireland, Germany and Switzerland) are responsible for 46% of US pharmaceuticals import values in 2015.

Any error or omission on a single import line item can cause shipments to be held at the port of entry pending clearance, as shipments are never deconsolidated by FedEx to allow parts of shipments to move further.

Having cold chain rooms available for contingency planning mitigates the risk of experiencing pharmaceutical product degradation at specific locations.


Christelle Laot

Technical Fellow

Dr. Christelle Laot joined FedEx Express in 2007, and is currently Technical Fellow in the FedEx healthcare industry vertical. In this role, she provides direction and raises awareness around trends, transportation regulatory frameworks and shipping solutions. Prior to her work with FedEx, Dr. Laot held managerial positions in R&D, innovation and strategy at Bayer in Germany for about six years.

Dr. Laot obtained PhD and MS in Chemical Engineering from Virginia Tech (USA), a Diplôme d’Ingénieur from UTC Compiègne (France), as well as an MBA from HEC Montreal (Canada).

View all Christelle Laot’s blog posts

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