Anti-counterfeiting Packaging Technologies

Procurement Manager, Roy Butcher, discusses the latest trends in anti-counterfeiting packaging technologies in the pharmaceutical industry and how Covid-19 has played a large role in product innovation.


Over the last year, ensuring healthcare products are delivered to healthcare professionals and consumers safe and secure has been crucial. Anti-counterfeiting technologies have played an important part in the pharmaceutical supply chain for a long time. Since the pandemic, the demand has not only soared but became a necessity.


Anti-counterfeit packaging is the process of assigning secure packaging to a product to minimise counterfeiting or infringement. Doing this means that the product is then prevented from imitation and confirms the safety of the goods. In recent years, the demand for anti-counterfeit packaging has continued to increase, with predictions that The Global Anti-Counterfeiting Packaging Market is estimated to develop at a rapid pace from 2021 to 2027.


There are two key factors influencing the adoption of anti-counterfeit packaging. The first is to protect from economical and reputational damage to a company. Such technologies automatically authenticate a product’s genuineness and offer brand security, helping to eliminate potential fraudulent use of a manufacturers brand image. Secondly, and most importantly, anti-counterfeit packaging prevents potential consumer health risks. A factor that is becoming increasingly important as e-commerce pharmaceuticals see large growth, a change we have seen first-hand at Southgate.


Since the start of the pandemic, 4.3 million adults across the UK have ordered medication online for the first time. There are various reasons why people have turned to postal deliveries for their medication. For example, for ease and convenience, to avoid making journeys to the pharmacy, and to prevent the risk of infection from Covid-19.


One factor making one of the biggest shifts in pharmaceutical distribution currently is more and more consumers are now buying over the counter (OTC) products that are non-controlled online. Around 80% of drugs used in day-to-day life can be ordered online now and consumers are embracing the convenience of e-commerce. This started pre-Covid, but the pandemic has definitely played a role in the rise and now the responsibility lies to distributors to meet this new demand. It will be interesting to see if this shift in consumer behaviour will remain long-term and if so, how this will shape pharmaceutical packaging designs.


Whilst the process of selling pharmaceuticals online and distributing direct to the consumer presents a high risk of counterfeiting, it is not the sole reason for concern. Many packaging companies are also receiving requests from companies where their medicines have experienced counterfeit through regular distribution channels. The inability to know for certain if a patient has received a genuine product is then a major issue for concern for medical professionals.


Ensuring pharmaceutical products are delivered from factory to patient in a safe, yet efficient manner is a precise operation with many factors to consider. Complex restrictions and performance requirements must be met, whilst ensuring it is protected and untampered on its journey. Packaging companies are playing a vital role by introducing the latest technologies and new ways of manufacturing, assembling, filling, and sealing pharma products to ensure successful and secure end-to-end delivery.


At Southgate, we design our products with safety at the forefront. Our range of Tegracheck security tapes are made with an aggressive adhesive which prevents removal of the tape without clear evidence, revealing an ‘OPEN VOID’ message. Last year, we wrapped up five million NHS Covid-19 home testing kits using our range of self-seal bags to minimise the danger of excessive handling and contamination. Our design meant that the tests could be quickly and efficiently sealed and sent out to people who are unable to visit test sites.


Looking ahead, the continued growth of e-commerce pharmaceuticals will certainly bring new challenges for both the pharma and packaging industry that will persist long after the pandemic. The need for multi-layered protection technologies that can be easily and effectively integrated into packaging will become increasingly important as a means of securing both pharmaceutical brands and the consumer.


Counterfeiting continues to be one of the most serious threats faced by the pharmaceutical industry, causing damage in terms of consumer health, economic health and public trust in healthcare systems. Therefore, designing and specifying the packaging used throughout the end-to-end supply for medicines is a complex challenge and the packaging specialist’s role is a difficult one. Our role is becoming ever more important as we set to meet new consumer requirements and increased demand. Working together with both the pharma industry and educating the end customer, we can fight the ever-increasing risk over the next few years.

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