July 2015 – According to the EU decision, all drug packaging will have to bear a product number and come with a unique closing system from 2017. This mandatory attachment of safety characteristics on packaging is hoped to prevent counterfeits, reduce financial losses and mitigate patient confusion. According to WHO estimates, to the tune of 10% of all drugs currently available on the world market are counterfeits. In Germany alone this causes economic losses worth some € 5 billion every year.
Visible and Invisible Codes
Even though the legal requirements still have two years before they come into force there is already a multitude of packaging solutions available today designed to ensure unmistakable traceability and forgery protection.
In addition to designs like holograph imprints, closures with transparent seals or reflective surfaces, 100% identification is in particular achieved by matrix data codes and RFID tags. Using cloud versions, the best-before dates or serial numbers of medicinal products can be uploaded to a server to then be accessed any time by all involved like manufacturers, pharmacists or wholesalers. If the entry fails to produce a match, the system emits an alarm signal. RFID codes make it possible to determine authenticity by means of electromagnetic waves.
The advantage of transponders is that they themselves serve as storage media and can only be copied using most elaborate process engineering. Micro colour codes, impossible to detect with the naked eye, also make unambiguous identification of pharmaceutical products possible. Biometric recognition automatically collects such characteristics as shape and material and evaluates this data statistically. In some cases consumers are even in a position themselves to tell real from fake: thanks to smartphone and computer-aided track&trace systems at the PoS or so-called tamper-evidence packaging that clearly shows whether a container was opened before.