It has been estimated that between 500,000 and 1 million lives are lost each year due to counterfeiting of pharmaceutical medications. With the growing threat pharmaceutical companies are facing from mislabeled or counterfeit medications, company leaders are taking a hard look at the supply chain pharmaceutical medications undergo. To crack down on the distribution of counterfeit or mislabeled medications, a smart part of the supply chain pharmaceutical companies can visit first is packaging.
At the end of the production stage, pharmaceutical packaging companies step in to prepare the drug for distribution. There are several methods of pharmaceutical and medical packaging. In this article we’ll examine the most popular medical packaging techniques and how they can help you prevent counterfeiting, mislabeling and contamination.
The three most common manufacturing techniques:
- Blister packaging:
What is blister packaging? In the U.S., plastic blister packaging is found most often in small unit dosage pharmaceuticals. Recognizable by its peelable, opaque lamination that allows for easy opening, blister packaging’s identifying feature is the pocket or cavity created by flexible yet durable web which shelters the product from damage. If more durable packaging is required, blister packaging can be made from combinations using PVC and foil. With high speed blister packaging allowing large quantities of product to be packaged in a relatively short amount of time, this type of packaging enables economies of scale to be easily achieved.
Carded blister packaging allows for the option to include additional information with the product, such as coupons and advertisements. To help prevent unlawful distribution and resale and aid in quality control, blister card packaging can also include expiration dates and lot numbers. Holograms have become a popular means of preventing counterfeiting and can be applied to blister packaging aluminum foil.
- Bottle packaging:
Bottle packaging is another common method of medication distribution. The wide array of bottle packaging designs allow for various cap options, including child-safe, twist off and snap off. By utilizing liners and seals, bottle packaging companies can shield the product from contact with outside substances. The customer can rest assured that their medication hasn’t been tampered with.
Bottle packaging services also allow for bar code printing to aid in identification and help prevent counterfeit drugs from entering the supply chain. Holographic printing on bottle packaging is also available. The combination of two-dimensional bar codes and three-dimensional holograms can be an effective strategy for preventing counterfeiting.
- Pouch packaging:
Most commonly used for liquids, pouches or sachets are another common medical packaging design. Pouch packaging is popular for its ability to include measured doses in a prepackaged container. Like bottle packaging, pouch packaging can use tamper-evident seals and hologram or bar code printing. They also offer the option of child safe seals, strip seals and easy-open rip or tear pouches.
Although not strictly a packaging technique, no discussion of the pharmaceutical supply chain would be complete without mention of serialisation warrants. Known as e-pedigree serialisation in the U.S., pharma serialisation is the implementation of an electronic document, or “pedigree,” detailing the supply chain pharmaceutical history of a given drug. The e-pedigree will provide information on each change of ownership the drug underwent during its journey from manufacturing to consumer.
Serialisation extends beyond packaging to encompass the entire supply chain pharmaceutical companies have in place. It requires coordination within and outside your company, from manufacturer to wholesaler and pharmacy. For the e-pedigree to contain a drug’s entire journey, all of the players in the supply chain must use compatible technology.
In the U.S, pharmaceutical serialisation at the saleable unit level is required to begin November 2017, with the deadline extended to 2018 for repackagers. Before selecting the best packaging method for your medication, give careful consideration to how your chosen method will operate within the pharma serialisation requirements of your market.