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Tech. Series Pt. 2: Mastering Mapping Studies; Best Practices and Pitfalls to Avoid


In the pharmaceutical industry, temperature mapping plays a vital role in ensuring proper temperature regulation. This scientifically based process detects possible temperature fluctuations and critical areas which might affect product quality. Given the variation in temperature control norms across nations, consulting respective guidelines is beneficial during the setup of the monitoring system. Incorporating standards such as GMP, WHO, ICH, along with a scientific framework, transforms mapping into a preventive measure. It guarantees that each part of the storage and distribution process complies with the specified temperature limits, essential for maintaining the efficacy of pharmaceutical goods.


Key Steps for Effective Mapping Studies

Comprehensive Planning

Embark on the mapping study with a comprehensive plan, including well-defined objectives, complete scope, and specific timelines (i.e., at least 7 days for meaningful data). Crucially, develop an adequate protocol that outlines the methodology, equipment calibration procedures, sensor placement strategies, data analysis techniques and acceptance criteria. This protocol serves as a roadmap for the entire study, ensuring adherence to regulatory standards and scientific rigor. 


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Impact of Empty vs. Fully Functional Areas 

Consider the impact of conducting the study in both empty and fully functional (loaded) areas. Temperature distribution can vary significantly between empty and full spaces due to differences in air circulation and load. Conduct mapping studies under both conditions to understand the full range of temperature dynamics. This can help in developing comprehensive temperature control strategies.


Selection of Appropriate Data Loggers

Choose data loggers that are accurate, reliable, and suitable for the specific environmental conditions. In pharmaceutical temperature mapping, the choice of measuring instruments, each with varying tolerances and responsiveness to temperature changes, is critical. Instruments should be selected based on their precision, with high-quality devices offering accuracy within at least ±0.5°C. For products requiring strict temperature control, high-precision instruments are necessary. Always ensure that data loggers are calibrated before usage.


Strategic Data Logger Placement

Position data loggers in a grid pattern to cover all critical areas, three dimensionally (height, width, depth), at various heights (i.e., 2ft, 6ft, 18ft,…), near the product and potential risk areas such as doors, vents, and windows. Increase the number of data loggers when working in complex or higher-risk areas. When available, use historical data such as previous mapping study results, and include any findings that may improve data logger placement such as other risks sources or area of interests.


Data Collection and Reporting

Collect data over a representative period, covering at least the extreme of temperatures (winter and summer).  Analyze the collected data to identify temperature distribution, uniformity, variations and potential risks. Generate a comprehensive report detailing the findings and recommendations.


Personnel and QA Oversight

Assign qualified personnel with expertise in mapping studies and temperature control systems. Ensure continuous QA oversight throughout the process to guarantee adherence to protocols and regulatory standards. The involvement of competent personnel is crucial for accurate data interpretation, effective problem-solving, and ensuring overall study integrity.


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Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Inadequate Planning

Detailed planning is the backbone of a successful mapping study, and neglecting this phase can lead to flawed outcomes and regulatory non-compliance. Ensure that your plan aligns with current regulatory standards and guidelines. Proper documentation of the planning process is crucial for compliance and future audits.


Insufficient Data Logger Coverage 

Do not skimp on the number of data loggers. Insufficient data logger coverage is a common issue that can compromise the accuracy and reliability of mapping studies. Proper data logger coverage is crucial to identify all potential temperature variations within the area being studied. Consider the size of the area, the presence of equipment, storage racks, and any physical obstructions that might influence temperature distribution.


Ignoring Environmental Variabilities

Consider all environmental factors that could impact temperature, such as seasonal changes, daily temperature cycles, and HVAC systems.


Neglecting Data Integrity

Use reliable data loggers and ensure data is securely stored and backed up. Regularly check the accuracy of the sensors.


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Failing to adhere to the established procedures.

Deviating from established protocols can lead to critical errors in mapping studies. Ensure that every team member understands and follows the protocol meticulously. Regularly review and update the protocol to reflect any changes in the study's scope or objectives and maintain a record of these modifications for audit purposes. This adherence safeguards against errors and inconsistencies, thus maintaining the study's integrity and reliability.


Overlooking Regulatory Guidelines

Stay informed about the latest regulatory guidelines and ensure your mapping study complies with these standards.


Implementing Corrective Actions

Upon identifying areas of concern during the mapping study, it’s crucial to implement corrective actions. This may include adjusting HVAC settings, redesigning storage layouts, or implementing additional controls and continuous temperature monitoring.


Cold Chain Science Enterprise: Enhancing Mapping Study Efficiency

Effective mapping studies are essential for maintaining the quality and safety of pharmaceutical  products. By understanding and implementing best practices, and avoiding common pitfalls, companies can ensure the integrity of their products and compliance with regulatory standards.


At Cold Chain Science Enterprise, we specialize in conducting detailed mapping studies for the pharmaceutical industry. Our expertise helps clients avoid common mistakes and implement best practices, ensuring the efficacy and safety of their temperature-sensitive products.


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Author: Ivica Kuzmanovski, Quality Assurance Specialist


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