Are You Certain Your Pharmaceutical Products Aren’t Counterfeit?


In the pharmaceutical packaging industry, the number one concern is the health and safety of customers. However, with the recent trend of an increased presence of counterfeit drugs circulating through the market, this task isn’t so easy. A medical product is counterfeit when there is a false representation in relation to its identity or source. This can apply to the product, its container, or other packaging or labeling information.1 Over the last several years, the packaging industry has been trying to find ways to limit and remove these cases of counterfeiting. Further, more and more companies are putting their heads together to put preventative procedures in place and put an end to counterfeiting.

With advances in technology, many industry leaders have implemented new anti-counterfeiting technologies to assure the customer of their products’ authenticity. These measures can include placing bar codes, QR codes, 3-D holographic adhesive stickers similar to what you would see on a driver’s license, tamper evident/resistant seals, and chemical or biological tags on the outside of packages. Of these methods, the one technique that seems to be trending the most is serialization. By putting a serial number on the package, customers can check the serial number and trace that number directly back to the manufacturer. This process not only helps to reduce/prevent counterfeiting, but it ensures the customer of product authenticity. Also, if there ever were a recall of a product, serialization would optimize the return/recall cycle time, allowing the end user to receive their replacement as soon as possible.

This technique seems to be the most economical and most efficient choice for both manufacturers and consumers. While the details of how and when these features will become standardized throughout the industry are not yet nailed down, it is comforting to know that the wheels are definitely in motion. According to packagingworld.com, the first serialization round-table for contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) was just held this October (2015).  During this event, “More than one hundred attendees representing sixty-five CMOs, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and suppliers, including Novartis, Mylan, Domino Amjet and Apace Packaging, met to listen to educational presentations and participate in roundtable discussions to promote communication across the industry about available IT technologies, best practices, financial advice and lessons learned.”2

So, while counterfeiting is definitely a global issue in the pharmaceutical industry, it is not going unnoticed and there are ways to get around it. Through the implementation of many different anti-counterfeiting techniques across the industry, hopefully counterfeit drugs will soon become a thing of the past.

  1. Bansal, Dipika et al. Anti-Counterfeit Technologies: A Pharmaceutical Industry Perspective. Scientia Pharmaceutical 81:1-13. February 7th, 2012.
  2. Sookne, Karen. First Serialization Roundtable for CMOs held. Packaging World.com. http://www.packworld.com/applications/healthcare/first-serialization-roundtable-cmos-held. October 20, 2015.
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About the Author : Marc Menickella

Marc Menickella earned his bachelor’s degree in communication studies and marketing from The College of New Jersey. As Associate Product Manager for WHEATON, Marc's main focus is glass and plastic vials for both research and packaging applications. In addition, with his experience in social media marketing, Marc manages WHEATON’s social media platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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