The importance of automatic temperature
monitoring in the distribution of
pharmaceuticals

The World Health Organisation (WHO) as well as the South African Department of Health have released detailed specifications for the environmental conditions that have to be complied with for the storage, transport and dispensing facilities for vaccines and certain medications.

These conditions apply to a wide range of products, all of which lose their biological properties, if the required temperature range during any of these phases is not adhered to.

The monitoring and management of the environmental conditions can be time consuming and cumbersome, requires specifically approved measuring equipment and necessitates regular readings as well as meticulous record keeping up to a number of years.

If the stipulated environmental conditions are breached and the prescribed temperature range is exceeded or temperatures fall below the minimum level, large volumes of medications or vaccines have to be disposed of in an expensive and controlled manner, leading to high financial losses to the business, and inability to service the patients that require such medication.

It is therefore prudent to install electronic automatic temperature sensor and logging equipment that operates continuously 24*7*365 days and provides seamless and uninterrupted recording data as proof that stipulated storage conditions were adhered to.

Such equipment furthermore is able to automatically raise alerts via acoustic notification, email or SMS communication, in the event that the set temperature range drifts towards the boundaries of the prescribed range, thus enabling staff to react pro-actively and institute mitigating measures to avoid expensive stock losses. In accordance to best practice regulations, measurement data is kept in the cloud, is always available online, real time, and iscontinuously backed up to the highest compliance level for data storage.

It is important to understand that any cooling plant is not infallible and breakdowns in compressor or circulation pumps quickly and easily can lead to uncontrolled drifts or even outages, during which the specified temperature range will be breached.

Because such cooling plant operates largely without human supervision or intervention, it is important that pro-active measures are in place to detect temperature variations before the specified range is breached.

Furthermore, external conditions such as power failures, prolonged excessive heat, high cycles of door openings or even negligence when doors are not correctly closed, can lead to excessive
temperature fluctuations, thus damaging stored medicines.

When selecting electronic automatic monitoring and recording equipment, it is important that such equipment and data storage systems have been approved by the World Health Organisation for use in critical environments. It is crucial that such equipment is provided with WHO approved calibration certificates and annual approved calibration services are carried out. Local support and service teams have to be available, to ensure that this equipment is kept in optimal operating conditions, and any possible equipment failure is addressed speedily and effectively.

Pietermaritzburg based Ikhaya Automation systems designs and manufacturers such technology. The company has been operating since 2008 and has deployed thousands of devices across a diverse client base from Southern Africa. The company is the only level 2 compliant South African black owned firm which meets all the statutory requirements. The firm’s local development capability, together with a well-defined product portfolio, ensures that clients are always able to find the best solution to meet their requirements.