Can You Stay Ahead of the Pack in Pharmaceutical Packaging and Labelling?

Pharma IQ

As the nature of the pharmaceutical packaging and labelling industry continues to evolve, organisations are faced with many challenges, including keeping up with regulatory requirements and ensuring that the packaging and labelling on products is compliant.

It is a complex area, with firms encountering challenges from all directions, including but not limited to, regulatory compliance, track and trace implementation, anti-counterfeiting measures and increasing brand awareness.

Subsequently, the future of the market continue to be unpredictable, though a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC's) Pharma 2020 series, Supplying the future: Which path will you take?, identified trends that will change the way drugs are distributed in the coming years.

The report found that in recent years, many pharmaceutical companies have invested comparatively little effort in updating their manufacturing and distribution operations, many of which have been found to be inefficient, under-utilised and ill-equipped to cope with new medicines, cost pressures and expectations about health reform.

Other industry reports have shown that it is not only counterfeiting which is putting packaging and labelling in the pharma industry under pressure – an estimated 30 percent of product recall is attributable to packaging and labelling, meaning professionals are urgently attempting to indentify solutions.

PwC noted that the supply chain is regarded as the key link between the laboratory and the marketplace, as it includes everything from sourcing raw materials to manufacturing and packaging to inventory warehousing, transportation and distribution.  

As the demand continues to grow for more customised products and services in the near future and as the nature of those products and services becomes more complex, the analyst predicts that the next generation pharmaceutical supply chains will become an "increasingly vital source of differentiation for drug makers.

As a result, this will become a more prominent part in industry leaders' strategies, PwC claims.

One of the major trends predicted by the analyst is a greater use of electronic health records, e-prescribing, mobile health applications and remote monitoring, which it claims will move the delivery of healthcare beyond hospitals and directly into homes.

Another major trend will be greater public scrutiny, and it is this which will permanently change the way in which medicines are packaged and labelled.

As companies aim to achieve transparency over their supply chain, there is an increased focus on understanding AIDC and EU requirements to maximise patient safety and reduce the frequency and cost of adverse events.

This can be traced back though the supply chain, and PwC noted that security will be a key consideration.

The analyst noted: "Globalisation, the foreign sourcing and manufacture of regulated products and an increase in the volume and complexity of imported products have increased the need for supply chain control to identify the risk of contamination and fake medicines."

"Regulators are raising the bar on supply chain safety, demanding sophisticated technology solutions to track and trace product throughout the supply chain."

The company predicted that companies that currently concentrate on specialist therapies may end up leaving the manufacturing process altogether.

They will instead become virtual manufacturers, outsourcing the entire supply from the production of the earliest clinical batches to full-scale manufacture, packaging and distribution through a network of integrated supply partners.  

Another option may be for these firms to position themselves as "service innovators", which would see them build supply chains capable of manufacturing and distributing complex treatments as well as managing multiple suppliers of integrated, valued-added health management services.

According to PwC, mass-market manufacturers, including the makers of generic drugs, may seek to position themselves as high-volume, low-cost providers, which would include adopting lean manufacturing methods such as strategic pricing and inventory management from the consumer products sector.

"Another option for mass mass-market manufacturers is to turn their supply chains into profit centres that combine economic manufacturing and distribution of satellite services, such as direct-to-patient delivery, secondary packaging or distribution to hospitals and pharmacies, and then to franchise it as a stand-alone offering for both internal and external customers," the analyst suggested.

It is clear that, in the months and years ahead, focusing on these strategies and predicting industry trends may be the difference between failure and success in the field of pharmaceucial packaging and labelling.

Meeting regulatory compliance, following new EU Legislation and keeping up with track and trace and serialisation will all be vital, not to mention implementing anti-counterfeiting and using packaging, labelling and leaflets as branding tools.

Only time will tell which firms will be sufficiently prepared to tackle these challenges head on and emerge victorious.