Pharmaceutical Packaging

How to Fight Pharmaceutical Counterfeiting

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How can patients be protected from this growing threat? Drug manufacturers assume an important role in the fight against counterfeiting by applying one or more of the technologies described below.

Overt, Semi–Overt and On–Product Marking

Holograms can display a wide range of images and are printed onto folded boxes, blisters or labels in the pharmaceutical industry. Other Optically Variable Devices (OVD) are similar to holograms but without the three-dimensional effect. Packaging can also be marked with color-shifting security inks or films, which change color depending on the viewing angle. With different security graphics, an additional text or image appears only when viewed with a magnifier.


Product numbering – sequential or randomized –, which is printed on the packaging, is the most common semi-overt anti-counterfeiting technology. Some anti-counterfeiting measures can be applied directly onto the product instead of traditionally onto packaging materials. For example, color-shifting inks are admixed to film-coated tablets, changing color depending on the viewing angle. Microtaggants and mechanical micro imprints can be administered to the film coating and identified using special equipment.

Individualizing pharmaceutical products in terms of color, form and graphic or mechanical features also helps to protect patients by making drug copying a more laborious business.

Covert Technologies and Forensic Markers

A number of anti-counterfeiting features on the market are invisible to the naked eye. For example, special ink that is printed onto primary or secondary packaging can only be seen under ultraviolet (UV) or infrared (IR) light. Digital watermarks are only decodable using special software programs. The finely structured pattern of the so-called ‘anti-copy’ or ‘anti-scan’ design only becomes visible when copied or scanned.