Present and future trends in security solutions
The pharmaceutical industry in India has come of age and it has made the country proud on a global level. The Indian domestic pharma market consistently grew at 9.5 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) over the last five years. It is poised to accelerate at 13.6 percent between 2006-2010 to touch the market size of $9.48 billion by 2010. As a result, it enjoys a global ranking of four in terms of volume and 11 in value terms globally. Having said that, this tremendous growth in the industry has brought with it, its own share of challenges. One such major issue that is starring the pharma industry in the face is counterfeit.
However, the production of counterfeit drugs in India has led to significant negative publicity around the world. A simple internet search yields many articles in the mainstream media about the abundance of counterfeit drug production in the country and its harmful effects. A recent report by the European Commission (EC) states, “In the medicines sector, India is the number one source, followed by United Arab Emirates and China.” Of interest is the fact that India was not named as a key source for any of the other counterfeit goods reported in this study, such as cigarettes, perfumes, food products etc. The EC report goes on to state that the flourishing pharma industry in India along with lax export oversight was primarily responsible for this problem.
According to Government of India—the extent of counterfeiting is 5 percent whereas industry estimates range from 10 percent to 30 percent. This is substantial and in a fast growing industry it is a sizable problem for the industry. The Indian pharma industry is aware of this increasing menace and it is important to note that as an aggrieved stakeholder they are taking important steps to combat this. In order to combat counterfeit a multipronged strategy has to be adopted. Only a sustained and concentrated action backed jointly by the government, drug industry and consumer action groups can tackle it. Along with this, innovations in packaging technology in terms of security labeling and consumer education have come to play an important role in helping the consumers identify the authentic products and to ward off counterfeiters.
We have started to see an increased usage of security labels by some pharma companies albeit a negligible amount. Some of the present trends include the use of holographic products in a variety of forms such as full coverage labels, holographic foils on blisters, in shrink sleeves and on primary cartons. We have also seen the usage of innovative packaging with attractive and unique color combinations and scrambled images printing as a means to combat counterfeiting. These security solutions have enjoyed some success. However they have not escaped the counterfeiter’s ploy. At this point it is important to understand how counterfeiters operate. They may not have the best technology available to duplicate the security label but they do manage to create a look-a-like which is able to get the better of any consumer. So the present solutions adopted by the pharma industry is an excellent starting point but there is scope for improvement. Hence we can say that we are now seeing a new trend amongst the pharma industry with regards to—
Adding more security features to existing security holograms—Some companies use the existing security holograms and change its design. For example you may add a switch effect which was not there before or add a covert feature such as laser image or microswitch effect, nano text etc.
Changing and adopting newer technological platforms beyond the holographic platform—On the other hand, there are some companies that are moving technological platforms to color shifting films, where in the colour of the security label changes from one particular colour to another colour and floating image labels, where the customised image will have the floating and sinking effect, which are new and quite difficult to create look-a-like of.
We are also seeing a trend towards serialisation for track and trace purpose using codes, database management and field tracking devices. Security labels broadly have two types of security features, overt and covert security features. Overt features are those which can be verified by the consumer easily without the use of any external device whereas the covert features are those which require devices such as magnifiers, torches and plastic decoders. Depending on the type of the end consumer, manufacturers can use and incorporate combination of covert and security features to meet their requirements.
A good security label should have the following attributes:
Strong overt features—Overt features are the features that one can identify with their naked eyes, with out using a special light or an instrument.
Easy onsite authentication at the time of purchase—retailers should be provided with identification mechanisms, where the customer can actually test his product for authentication.
Cannot be easily simulated
Allows for incorporation of multiple overt and covert security features. Robust materials used in multiple production environments. The introduction of the label should be followed by strong and structured end consumer education programs to derive the maximum benefits from investments in the Anti-counterfeiting program. The Indian pharma industry has come a long way and is only due for more growth. It is hence essential to combat the battle of counterfeit head-on and dissolve it into non-existence with immediate effect.
(The author is Division Manager Security Systems Division, Track and Trace Solutions EBO. 3M India)