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Ensuring Distribution Through the Vicissitudes and Against All Odds

On April 22, 2015, the Calbuco volcano in Chile erupted and expelled a huge column of smoke and ash that reached four kilometers high. In addition, the Andean wind shifted to the north of the Patagonia in Argentina affecting Rio Negro and Neuquén provinces.

This natural disaster was a major concern for the Fisher Clinical Services Logistics Team. For clinical research centers located in these provinces, it was business as usual, but shipments of medication to these destinations presented challenges on the days following the volcanic phenomenon.

A warning was issued by the Courier Company “Flights to Neuquén, Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes are canceled”. This warning would lead to further complications and challenges for the Fisher Clinical Services Logistics Team as a very high percentage of shipments were ‘cold chain’ clinical supplies. It was imperative that these clinical supplies were kept in defined temperature specifications. Temperature excursions would jeopardize the stability of these clinical supplies, in turn jeopardizing the Sponsors’ clinical trials.

Working together
Working together, the Fisher Clinical Services coordination team and the logistics team, joined efforts in order to agree on the best way forward to enable the delivery of clinical shipments to patients over the coming days. Both teams worked together to define a new strategy. Firstly, they reviewed the shipment plans for the forthcoming days and prioritized shipments according to patients’ schedules. They set up an internal schedule and made a decision to constantly monitor all shipments in real time. The instructions were clear and they knew that accomplishing this, would mean a great benefit to the Sponsor and more importantly, to the patients.

Then the Logistics Team worked with the authorities of the National Airport to get an appreciation of flight schedules. Further communication revealed that, in fact, only 1 of 3 flights had been cancelled over the next few days. A complicated situation was turning into a more hopeful scenario.

Communication – 3 way
The last point of contact on the clinical supply chain was the investigator site. Close follow-up and a constant flow of communication between the three teams (Fisher Clinical Services Logistics Coordinators, the Courier team and the investigator site personnel) was essential. The investigator site staff were pre-notified about proposed shipment delivery dates to the investigator site, alerting them to be ready to receive their shipments. It was a race against the clock in addition to a race against the weather.

The scenario was prepared to accomplish an effective delivery: the flight of that day was delayed, but no other adversities were identified. All parties to the supply chain were primed to expect the delayed delivery. Fortunately, and as expected, 1 day after the medication was dispatched, Fisher Clinical Services was notified by the Courier that the delivery had been made successfully. The investigator site confirmed receipt of the clinical supplies at the right place and in the right conditions. The investigator site staff were able to accommodate the delayed delivery and the patient was able to take the required medication within acceptable timelines. The Logistics Team at Fisher Clinical Services had surmounted the challenges presented to them by this natural disaster in Chile.

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