How to Ship Medicine and Pharmaceuticals

November 2, 2020

July 2, 2024


x min read

When it comes to shipping pharmaceuticals and medicine, precise considerations need to be taken into account. Pharmaceuticals and medicines require special care compared to shipping electronics, clothes, or food. These considerations include: shipping regulations, which carriers to use, labeling requirements, proper packaging, and maintaining cold chain requirements.

This blog will cover these topics to make sure that your medicine and pharmaceutical products get to their intended destination. Problems shipping pharmaceuticals and medicines cannot only affect your business (customer satisfaction and profits), but they can also impact the lives of people who need them. 

It's essential to make sure pharmaceuticals and medicines arrive in the proper condition and on time. The pharmaceutical industry is constantly evolving. Keeping up to date with regulations and technologies can save your business time and money. Best practices of shipping medicine and pharmaceuticals will also be discussed. With the temperature-sensitive and high-value nature of these goods, leaving too much to chance can be costly in many ways.

Pharmaceutical Transportation Regulations

When it comes to transporting pharmaceuticals, paying attention to regulations is extremely important. No matter what country, territory, or region you are transporting them into, proper regulatory compliance is essential.  These regulations are usually comprehensive and must be followed to the letter of the law. After all, pharmaceuticals are critical goods.

For example, in the United States, pharmaceutical companies follow the rules set by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). It would be impractical to list all of them here, but here is the general picture of what you comply with when it comes to dealing with the FDA. Here are some critical points:

Transportation Equipment and Measures 

Airplanes, ships, and vehicles should be specifically designed for the transportation of pharmaceuticals. This means all equipment and measures put in place must be for the safe and the secure transportation of these criticals good. Furthermore, all personnel involved in handling them should receive extensive training.

Temperature Monitoring and Control 

Temperature monitoring and control devices are needed to keep the temperature within an acceptable range during transportation and storage. There can be slight variations, however, constant checking is required to ensure no damage occurs due to temperature fluctuations and/or malfunctioning devices.

Securing the Pharmaceuticals 

The shipment should be secured and only accessible by authorized personnel. So, tight security is a requirement. This can include a combination of everything from keypad locks to security cameras.


Anything regarding transportation, inspections, storage, and personnel training, among other things, needs to be properly documented.

Labeling Requirements for Pharmaceuticals

Labeling for medicine and pharmaceuticals is also another thing that is strictly regulated. Per FDA regulations , here are some labeling rules for medicine and pharmaceuticals:

  • The label should include all the relevant and factual information and claims, including warnings, allergic reactions, instructions, official name and purpose and use.
  • Information should be formatted accordingly.
  • The label should be clearly readable in terms of font and style and remain in place at all times (no matter the conditions).
  • There should be no typographical errors (misprints) or grammatical errors to avoid misunderstandings, meaning labels should be checked for these.
  • If abbreviations are used, they should be well-known.

Packing Pharmaceuticals for Shipping

Packaging is what makes the difference between a package that arrives damaged and one arrives perfectly intact. Damaged packages will most likely be rendered unusable. So, to minimize the cost of replacing damaged goods, make sure to package the medicine and pharmaceuticals for safe transportation.

Packaging is instrumental in preserving the integrity of medicine and pharmaceuticals. Here are some things you can do in regards to packaging when shipping:

  • Insulated packaging: These products require the temperature to be precise. So use insulated packaging, such as containers, and thermal pallet covers for products that require precise temperature control.
  • Corrugated Boxes: Corrugated boxes contain a layer of flutes between the liners that offer cushioning.
  • Water-activated tape: Seal the corrugated boxes with water-activated tape (gum tape) to create a strong bond that keeps the box secure during transit. This ensures the box won’t accidentally become open. Also, it serves as a good deterrent for cargo theft since opening the box can become a chore.

Maintaining the Cold Chain During Shipping

The cold chain is an extremely important concept when it comes to medicine and pharmaceutical logistics. Basically, temperature control is used to slow down the expiry of the products, making sure they arrive at their destination unspoiled. 

Therefore, cold chain logistics involves creating a temperature-controlled environment for transporting goods that are sensitive to temperature changes. The temperature range during shipping is important and shippers need to monitor temperatures while in transit to ensure prescription drugs and other pharma products stay within acceptable temperature ranges.

During cold chain shipping, it is important to maintain the cold chain since drugs can go bad even when there is a two-degree variation in temperature. There are basically four stages at which this can be done to ensure that the cold chain isn’t broken:

  • Supply or manufacturing: The plant where the medicine and pharmaceuticals are produced needs to be a temperature-controlled environment. This is also where the products are packaged.
  • Transportation: The trucks used for the cold chain transported need to be properly insulated with a refrigeration unit inside. Constant monitoring of the medicine and pharmaceuticals is also a must to ensure the temperature does vary to the point of spoiling the shipment.
  • Storage: This is an optional step, but if the products must be stored before going to the stores or markets, the warehouse must be refrigerated and monitored as well.
  • Stores or market: This is the final destination in the cold supply chain. These are the hospitals and pharmacies that make the medicine and pharmaceuticals available for purchase and/or administer them.

Track Pharma Shipments with Tive

Want real-time insights and monitoring for your pharmaceutical and medicine shipments? Tive is the ultimate solution for complete supply chain and cold chain visibility: pharmaceutical temperature monitoring. 

Tive’s trackers use global networks and built-in sensors to provide real-time location and condition of your shipments, and the software's tracking dashboard lets you analyze it all in real-time through your web browser or mobile phone.

Get started with Tive today! Request our prices and trial by clicking the button below to learn how Tive can help.



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