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Gillian Ewers, vice president of marketing at Milltrust’s British Innovation Fund’s investee company PragmatIC, examines how smart packaging is benefitting the pharmaceutical industry and helping to combat counterfeit drugs.
The worldwide pharmaceutical market is huge – it was estimated at over $1 trillion in 2016. A growing portion of this market is over the counter (OTC) medicines that are projected to be worth $178 billion in 2024. High revenue markets are very attractive to counterfeiters, who can reap high profits by either copying the formulation or making up a far more dangerous product that looks just like the original.
Across the board, one of the challenges for small and medium sized companies to meet new regulations is that their packaging lines are often very traditional, with a focus on high volume production as margins are so slim. The equipment is not set up to meet individual serialisation package requirements, and the investment in new digital printing lines that are capable of per unit identification are often beyond the reach of many converters.
A possible approach to this is to rethink the whole problem and use technology such as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and NFC (Near Field Communication) solutions which can simplify serialisation but also bring other benefits. Adding a small integrated circuit (IC) into a package gives it a unique identification (UID), which can be tracked globally through the distribution supply chain and into the retail environment and can be used to assure every member of the supply chain of its provenance. This can also be used to deliver the same information to the consumer, as well as other details that can be relevant to where they are when they interact with the product.