Boosting security to deter counterfeiting in pharma packaging

09 Aug 2022

In a changing global market, the pharmaceutical sector is under great pressure. One of the most pressing challenges is the manufacturing and sale of counterfeit or fake pharmaceutical products, which is believed to be the 10th most counterfeited category of product. 

These illicit products, which typically do not conform to international or regional safety and security standards, have previously seen a combined global value estimated to be up to $4.4Bn USD. This represents a significant threat to not only the pharma supply chain, but also to consumers across all corners of the world, who may be purchasing and using fake pharmaceutical products without realising. 

The safety and security issues associated with counterfeit pharmaceutical products are many; as well as often failing to treat the condition for which they’re intended, they have the potential to cause active harm. 

Further downstream, counterfeiting harms patient and end user trust, which creates loss of public confidence in the wider health and pharmaceutical industries. 

The role of pharma packaging and labelling

In combatting counterfeit pharmaceutical products, packaging and label technology plays a central role on a number of key fronts. In addition to featuring technologies such as tamper evidencing, the right solutions in place can give instant at-a-glance confirmation that a product is genuine, legal and safe.

There are many different categories of anti-counterfeiting feature available from Essentra Packaging. These include forensic, which requires specialist equipment to identify and is not widely known to the public or counterfeiters, brand enhancement and consumer engagement, which provide easy access to augment and personalise brand experience, in addition to covert and overt technologies.

Covert and overt technologies can be used in tandem as a cohesive and aligned system, matched with tamper evidence features. With the ideal combination in place, delivered with an experienced packaging partner like Essentra Packaging, preserving the integrity of pharmaceutical products can be made simple.

Covert and overt security features

Essentra Packaging is a specialist in the development of label and secondary packaging solutions for the health and pharmaceutical sectors and provides a wide range of technologies for its customers. This includes overt features, designed for human visibility, and covert features, designed for machine visibility.

Overt anti-counterfeit measures use visible markers and features to give simple ‘at-a-glance’ confirmation of a product’s authenticity. This involves using visual technologies that are closely protected and cannot be replicated by criminal counterfeiters. Examples available from Essentra Packaging include colourshift inks that appear as two or more distinct colours when viewed from different angles and in different lights, and Guilloche Print, which creates complex patterns that cannot easily be replicated. This is applied in vertical, horizontal and elliptical forms, with variable lines available to add further complexity.

A highlight of the Essentra Packaging range is its collaboration with Crane Authentication and its PROFOUND™ Micro-Optics technology. The solution’s features have their roots in the same technology that protects some of the world’s most valuable banknotes, exhibiting striking movement and three-dimensional effects that offer instant and intuitive end-user verification.

Micro-Optics technology can be married with other security measures such as coding and tamper evident labelling to provide a synergistic layering of functions, all designed to support patient and end user security.

In contrast to overt features designed to be authenticated by sight, covert features are meant to be authenticated by machines or technology. Examples from the Essentra Packaging range include bi-fluorescent UV-visible inks that respond to specific frequencies of ultraviolet light. 

As a leading name in secondary packaging solutions for the pharma industry, Essentra Packaging can support and guide on projects of any size or complexity. To discover more about anti-counterfeit measures available from Essentra Packaging, please visit