FedEx Express Establishes Default Temperature Settings on the B777F
Most pharmaceuticals need to be stored and transported in one of two temperature ranges: Controlled Room Temperature (15-25°C) or Cold / Refrigerated (2-8°C). Typically the sophistication of the molecules used in the drug and/or stability of it drives the need for tighter temperature control (i.e., more refrigeration).
Other healthcare products such as blood, tissues, cell lines and blood-based products (e.g., customized medicines / biotech drugs) often require a Frozen (-20 down to -80°C) or even Deep Frozen / Cryogenic (-150°C or below) range in order to keep any cellular degradation of the samples/specimens from occurring during transit.
When customers ship in those Cold, Frozen or Deep Frozen ranges, however, they use active or passive cooling systems contained within specialized containers or packaging in order to maintain those temperatures (such as dry ice/gel packs in parcel shipments). They do extensive testing in their quality departments to validate and approve these methods, but one area that they often have trouble with is air transport and particularly how temperatures can fluctuate inside of an aircraft. Most of their packaging is validated for a specific external/environmental range and if the temperature dips below that it can cause a Cold shipment to drop below the desired minimum temperature of 2°C and freeze, for example, which can often render the product unusable and it has to be destroyed.
The largest segment of pharmaceutical product from a temperature standpoint is in the CRT range, and particularly drugs moving in bulk. For these shipments, especially generics, the manufacturers or distributors are often more price conscious and do not want to incur the added cost of using expensive temp-control packing materials or specialized containers. Instead they opt to ship on days where the temperature is mild at origin and destination and hope that they won’t get any temperature excursions in transit. And, even then, the stability of these products is typically good so they can have allowable excursions of a certain duration down to 5°C and up to 30°C without the product being damaged or unusable.
Customers are counting on stable and predictable environmental temperatures, otherwise their packaging might not hold up and shipments can freeze or overheat.
In response to this, FedEx Express has implemented procedures to maintain temperatures on board its new B777 aircraft remain within the CRT range during flights. Extensive research studies were conducted by FedEx to determine the appropriate default temperature settings, so now cold chain shippers can plan accordingly with a great degree of confidence regarding what the temperature ranges will be in flight.