The crucial role of packaging in the control of counterfeit products in the healthcare market

Providing relevant authentication solutions required to separate a genuine from a counterfeit article is a growing challenge, as criminals become increasingly sophisticated in their methods. The profit with fake medicines is highly attractive to counterfeiters – with potentially life-threatening consequences for patients worldwide.

Pharmaceutical packaging can help to protect patients and reduce risks, by helping to identify the original product. Some of the anti-counterfeiting strategies that we incorporate into our customer’s packaging include:

Holographic elements: Incorporating holographic elements on selected areas of packaging can enhance the overall visual impact, creating a 3D effect on a flat surface. Dots, lines, waves, and other unique elements can be included in the light-refracting surface to create striking effects. Holographic elements can be difficult for counterfeiters to replicate due to the material required and the production process.

Serialization: Assigning unique serial numbers to each product unit allows for better traceability and authentication. In some cases, end users can verify the authenticity of the product by entering the serial number on a dedicated website or mobile app.

Our own serialization solution has been designed to be highly flexible, and can accommodate longer or more complex coding requirements, including compliant EU codes (according to regulations 2011/62/EU and 2016/161), Chinese C128 codes, QR codes, RFID applications, and country-specific formats, such as Italian Bollini labels. It also meets the requirements of the most recent drug traceability specifications. Production processes and capabilities have been designed to ensure the new requirements for coding can be efficiently met. It means that customers can meet many varied coding requirements across multiple markets with a single, highly effective system.

Each code is printed at the highest quality to ensure readability standards are met, with a high-contrast, high-resolution code that ensures optimal scanner legibility.

You can read more about our serialization service here.

Invisible ink or coatings: Using invisible ink or coatings with specific properties can be an effective anti-counterfeiting measure because it takes more effort to copy what you can’t see with the eyes – for example, pseudo-random micropatterns in the varnish or specialised UV inks. These markings are typically only visible under certain conditions, such as UV light or through bespoke smartphone applications, and can help distinguish genuine products from counterfeit ones.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags: Incorporating RFID tags into packaging can provide a more advanced level of authentication. These tags emit a unique radio signal that can be read by specialized devices, enabling quick and accurate verification of the product’s authenticity.

QR codes and mobile apps: Including QR codes on the packaging that can be scanned using a dedicated mobile app allows consumers to verify the product’s authenticity. The app can provide information about the product’s origin, manufacturing details, and other relevant details that can help detect counterfeits.

It’s important to note that while these measures can significantly deter counterfeiting, determined counterfeiters may still find ways to replicate or bypass them. Therefore, a multi-layered approach that combines various security measures is often the most effective way to combat counterfeiting.

Tamper-evident features: Implementing tamper-evident features can help detect any unauthorised access to the product. If the packaging has been tampered with, it indicates a potential counterfeit or compromised product.