Pharmaceutical Packaging

How to Fight Pharmaceutical Counterfeiting

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Microscopically small color-codes, in turn, consist of multiple color layers. They can be applied onto the packaging either manually or by means of dispenser technology. Techniques used for producing banknote papers are also applicable to packaging.

More recent technologies rely on chemical and biological parameters, and belong to the category of forensic markers. Chemical taggants are added to inks and result either in a characteristic peak in the IR spectrum or in particular chemical reactions. Biological markers can be incorporated into product formulations or coatings, or onto the packaging. The latter also applies to DNA taggants. In addition, packages can be examined for their isotopic ratio, which is stored as a natural fingerprint. Microtaggants are unique numeric code sequences in a multi-color layered format that can be applied either on or in the packaging.

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Tamper–Evidence and Serialization

Closure seals are a classic tamper-evident method applied to packaging. An intact seal proves that the package is being opened for the first time by the patient. While they do not actually prevent counterfeiting, tamperevident features nonetheless protect patients by clearly indicating whether a package has been opened before it reaches them. This also applies to the so-called VOID foils, which immediately tear when tampered with.

As soon as someone tries to open the package or remove the foil, the lettering ‘void‘ appears under the damaged surface. Perforation is a further means of making packaging tamper-proof: the packaging is irreversibly damaged once the perforation is torn. Serialization with adaption of a machine readable code is one of the most important strategies laid down in recent guidelines and legislation. A serialization number is a unique number attributed to pharmaceuticals on package or bulk level.

This number can be applied to the package by various technological means. One of them is the data matrix code which contains a distinct serial number attributed to the package, as well as variable data like batch number and expiry date. A radio frequency identification (RFID) label checks and records each product movement. In the long term, data matrix codes are intended to serve as traceability devices for all supply chain players.

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