Why does packaging artwork matter?

Andrew Love

Packaging artwork is an often forgotten back room process in most pharmaceutical companies, but the changing business environment has brought issues from this capability to the fore.

Pharmaceutical and other healthcare companies are facing one of the most difficult periods in their history. Current products are rapidly going off patent leaving significant revenue challenges. At the same time, weak product pipelines are failing to fill the gap.
Furthermore, global markets are changing rapidly. Traditional markets are stagnating and new markets are evolving at a rapid pace. Everywhere, key healthcare purchasers are putting increasing pressure on drug prices.

In response to these significant challenges, pharmaceutical companies are looking to make the most out of their current assets. This often manifests itself in a drive to launch as many product variants in as many markets as possible. For many pharmaceutical companies, this represents a significant change in strategy.

The rapid growth in the number of drugs coming off patent, together with the increasing pressure on price from the major purchasers, has led to a huge opportunity and growth for generic pharmaceutical companies. For them the challenges are very similar to the pharmaceutical companies, namely to market as many product variants in as many markets, as quickly as possible.

In today’s world, all drug companies have an increasing need to develop and maintain an excellent reputation with a diverse group of stakeholders. Pharmaceutical companies are looking to develop and maintain trust with governments and purchasing groups in order to help maintain the product prices necessary to support their significant drug development spending. The increasing competition amongst generic companies means that they each need to develop and sustain their reputation in order to win business and maintain their production licenses.

Maintaining this reputation whilst rapidly growing the number of products is particularly challenging when one considers that the largest single cause of product recall is due to packaging errors. Recognising this, regulators around the world are focusing on driv¬ing improvement in all business capabilities associated with the management of packaging design and manufacture.

When launching product variants in new markets, much if not all of the physical packaging design is already established. The text and graphics, or artwork as it is known, that is placed on these physical components is what changes every time. It is this artwork design and maintenance capability that becomes critical to achieving and maintaining the objectives of both pharmaceutical and generic drug companies.

For a large global pharmaceutical company, developing artwork for tens of thousands of products is typically a process involving thousands of people, in over a hundred countries, from tens of different organisations. To orchestrate all of this activity, the right combination of business processes, organisation design, information technology, facilities and suppliers has to be managed.

For smaller organisations, whilst the scale of the problem may be reduced, all of the same challenges have to be met. However, for many Healthcare companies, is the reality that their current packaging labelling and artwork development capability falls short of what is required to meet these new business challenges?  If so, what do they need to do to develop these important but often forgotten back-room capabilities?

Andrew Love