ICON has developed a lab logistics program to reduce costs

Q: How much of clinical trial lab budgets are spent on shipping and handling specimens?

A: Logistics typically consume up to 40 percent of lab budgets, and sometimes reach 50 percent, depending on the study. Logistics costs often end up far higher than initially projected. It is a much bigger problem than many trial managers realize.

Q: Why are lab logistic costs so high and hard to control?

The courier budgets are developed using assumptions regarding 100s and even 1000s of individual shipments. A deviation from any of these assumptions with an individual shipment will normally have minimal impact on the budget.

If that deviation continues to occur on a consistent basis over the course of a 3 or 4 year study, it can change from having minimal to significant impact on the budget. Using traditional means of logistics management this deviation will only be noticed late on into the study. At that point it, even if it’s possible to correct, the additional costs associated with that deviation will have already been incurred.

Q: How can lab logistics budget be managed more effectively?

A: The first step is to ensure that an appropriate logistics budget is created. ICON has amassed several years of independently audited logistics data, which is used to model predictive transportation.   Secondly, having real-time visibility of how the lab logistics budget is being spent, and specifically identifying opportunities for cost savings on a daily basis, allows ICON to control every aspect of the logistics budget. A team of logistics and site support staff monitor this closely to drive budget compliance.  

Q: Should the cheapest couriers always be used?

Price is not the only or even the most important factor in choosing a courier. Couriers also must be able to meet all technical and regulatory requirements for shipping study specimens. These include keeping packages within specified temperature ranges and timeframes to ensure specimens arrive intact and on time, documenting chain of custody, and expediting customs when international borders are crossed. Reliability in meeting schedules in specific locations is also critical. ICON’s extensive experience in managing couriers is needed to ensure all study needs are met while  favorable rates are achieved.

Q: How can shipping practices at clinical sites be improved?

A: Controlling shipping practices at dozens or hundreds of clinical sites is challenging to say the least. Realistically, it requires real-time data feeds on when and how many packing supplies are ordered, and when specimen packages are shipped – something ICON is highly capable of doing. These numbers can then be compared with a pre-determined budget. Sites that are shipping more often or ordering more supplies than the budget allows can be contacted to determine why, and preventive action put in place to avoid re-occurrence.

Q: That sounds complicated. What help is available for trial and outsourcing managers who need to reduce lab logistics costs?

A: ICON has developed a lab logistics program that not only reduces costs, but guarantees the savings. We can help create a realistic budget based on our extensive experience and your trial needs, negotiate with and manage couriers around the world, and monitor clinical site shipping performance in real time.