Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Important Packaging Trends in the Pharmaceutical Industry

You’d be hard-pressed to find an industry that isn’t currently seeing a form of evolution or transformation thanks to the variety of modern technologies entering the playing field. The pharmaceutical industry is no exception, and neither is packaging development in the space.

A guest post by Megan Ray Nichols

From a CX standpoint, consumers now expect and demand more accurate, enhanced personalization opportunities with faster — somewhat unheard of — delivery and fulfillment speeds. This is in addition to more stringent and traceable DSCSA standards and requirements. Naturally, quality management and reliability are still high priorities as well.

All of this culminates in a growing need for better, more efficient, more reliable and more capable packaging and development needs. It is driving the emergence, growth and boom of many new trends all across the industry.

1. Personalized Care Is Becoming More Necessary

Consumer demand is both expanding beyond legacy requirements and evolving at the same time. It is expanding because the current climate has allowed for regulatory and experience changes. The Affordable Care Act, or ACA, for example, provides insurance accessibility to even more American citizens, thus increasing the demand for pharmaceuticals.

Many populations are aging at the same time, increasing pharmaceutical and healthcare demands beyond anything that’s existed in the past.

But perhaps the most difficult element in all of this is the need for more personalized medicine. A one-size-fits-all approach is no longer applicable in any industry, really, brought on by modern technology and instant fulfillment opportunities. With the single tap of a digital button, consumers can order pharmaceuticals via mobile from anywhere. This expands to prescription-based meds, even, where connected patient and doctor systems facilitate the need for instant-fill methods.

As a result, pharmaceutical packagers must learn and adapt to deliver continuous, localized production streams in fewer batches and with shorter lead times. The smaller the batches get, the greater the need to package the goods closer to the consumer.

2. Smart Packaging for Identification, Patient Management and Increased Transparency

Smart labeling technologies have emerged to supplement many of the issues plaguing the current pharmaceutical packaging market, especially when it comes to DSCSA regulations on serialization, transparency and accountability.

Smart RFID tags can be used, in addition to barcodes, to track and monitor pallet-level goods throughout the supply chain. They’re incredibly efficient because you can verify an entire truckload of goods without patrolling through the entire stock. Of course, it also helps improve security and transparency and prevent tampering, because the packaging and goods within can be tracked, in full, across their entire journey up until distribution.

NFC tags or labels are also being used — embedded within packaging labels — to allow for modern scanning opportunities. This is especially helpful for patients, who can simply tap an NFC-enabled smartphone to the packaging and receive information about dosages, quantity and even refills. On the business side, NFC interactions can be tracked to learn a little more about the customers.

3. Accountability Is Vital

Driving the need for many of these smarter, more connected technologies is a looming requirement of accountability and transparency. The Drug Supply Chain Security Act — or DSCSA, as we’ve been referring to it — expressly requires federal verification, serialization and monitoring of all transactions or exchanges when it comes to pharmaceuticals. This makes it vital to protect, secure and track all shipments and transactions in full to protect your own company.

Not that it’s not important to do this anyway. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals, for instance, are a huge problem globally. And although it’s more common for them to be faked at the development and manufacturing stages, it’s entirely possible for shipments of real drugs and goods to be swapped for the faux kind while in transport. This is even more likely when dealing with third-party transporters and distributors for your goods.

There’s also the matter of proper packaging to ensure the quality and health of those affected. Medicine bottles, for instance, notoriously use special plastic molding to produce locking mechanisms which are childproof and secure. To prevent harm, and even litigation, it may be necessary to monitor and track certain types of bottles to ensure the seal and security is maintained.

Setting up a proper tracking and accountability system ensures that all packaging can be properly authenticated and monitored en route and beyond.

4. A Stronger Focus on Data Management and Cybersecurity

In order for the systems involved to become smarter, and for those connected devices to report useful information, the exchange of digital data has to happen. This also means more and more data will be generated, stored and processed within the pharmaceutical supply chain. Where there’s data, there are vulnerabilities and open devices ripe for attack.

Robust, integrated and well-maintained data security systems are necessary to protect any and all data management and reporting systems. Most importantly, they must help companies and providers prevent counterfeiting, security breaches, data tampering and theft.

This is especially true of any data related to the supply chain, which must always be verified and trustworthy. You want to be able to look at the current or past location of a shipment and know that’s exactly where it is — with access to a data stream where it’s difficult to change or alter such information.

5. The Inevitable Rise of Contract Packaging

As you’ll notice, the market is much more stringent when it comes to regulations and requirements, putting a tighter leash on pharmaceutical companies to properly handle packaging. Many of these regulations render legacy equipment and strategies obsolete. Smart labels, for instance, are essentially required to ensure proper tracking and accountability.

As a result, these companies are turning to specialized contract packagers, or CPs, to get the work done properly. Because they have newer equipment, they can get the work done faster, safer and more accurately. This also eliminates the burden big pharma companies have with respect to packaging, meaning they can focus on core competencies instead.

Furthermore, outsourcing the packaging process can help reduce supply chain costs by as much as 25 to 50 percent. This further alleviates costs associated with packaging and general shipment preparations, making it that much more lucrative to big pharma companies.

Evolve or Fail

Make no mistake: the landscape is changing rapidly, which means many of these trends will soon be the industry norm. That’s exactly why pharmaceutical packagers want to remain on the frontline, adopting new label technologies, tracking and accountability opportunities, and quality management processes as soon as possible. This is in addition to compliance and regulatory requirements that are — or could — threaten your business should you fail to keep up.

For a competitive advantage, you must evolve and adopt these growing trends — it’s as simple as that.

Pharmaceutical Microbiology

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