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3. Rise in use of contract packaging companies

As the market changes and regulations stiffen, pharmaceutical manufacturers are hard-pressed to keep up with their packaging needs. The cost of replacing legacy equipment in the face of stricter regulations is high. Pharmaceutical packaging itself is increasing in complexity.That’s why more pharmaceutical manufacturers are turning to specialised contract packagers (CPs) to ensure a higher level of speed and accuracy in their packaging operations. This allows pharma companies to focus on their core competencies —developing drugs— and leave the mounting complexities of pharmaceutical packaging to the experts.With greater flexibility, shorter lead times and a wide portfolio of capabilities (i.e., blister packs, RFID tags, tamper-evident solutions, etc.), specialised pharmaceutical packaging companies are able to provide full-service solutions that pharma manufacturers just can’t. And because outsourcing packaging can reduce total supply chain costs by 25 to 50 percent, we’re likely to see more and more pharma companies partner with CPs for their packaging needs.

4. Data management and cybersecurity emerge as primary concerns

To track and trace all products from raw material to finished product per DSCSA, data must be collected, stored and transferred down the pharmaceutical distribution supply chain. This calls for robust and integrated data management solutions. But, in the pharmaceutical industry, these enterprise software solutions must come with equally robust cybersecurity precautions to prevent counterfeiting and security breaches as the data moves from organisation to organisation in the supply chain.All legs of the supply chain are concerned with ensuring the security of their facility and the verifiability of their data. Because of this, beginning-to-end data management and cybersecurity solutions throughout the supply chain will be a key concern throughout the implementation of the DSCSA regulations in 2018 and beyond.

5. Growing use of smart packaging for identification and patient engagement

More and more pharmaceutical packagers are using smart labelling technology —namely radio frequency identification (RFID) and near field communication (NFC) tags— to track products and engage with patients.

  • In addition to 2D barcodes, RFID tags are increasingly used to track packages and pallets throughout the pharmaceutical supply chain. The main advantage RFID tags have over barcodes is that they eliminate the need for line-of-sight identification. All the goods within a pallet of packaged goods can be identified simultaneously, so long as it is close enough to the RFID reader. Basically, RFID tags allow you to identify entire truckloads worth of packaged product at once, and that information can immediately integrate with your data management software. Beyond ease of identification, RFID labels are extremely difficult to counterfeit — of great import in pharmaceutical packaging.
  • NFC labels have far-reaching implications in terms of improving medication adherence. Small, programmable NFC tags embedded in labels enable pharmaceutical companies to communicate key information to consumers. Just by tapping their NFC-enabled smartphones to the label, patients can access dosage and usage information in real time from your company’s cloud server. Moreover, you can track interactions with NFC labels, and report on the success of various patient engagement or marketing campaigns.

6. Accountability of pharmaceutical packaging manufacturers

Accountability will be key in 2018. By the end of 2018, every package and homogenous case that leaves your facility must be uniquely identified with an SNI — and you must be able to trace each package’s progression throughout your facility with the utmost accuracy.While there are many factors to consider as your organisation gears up to meet these deadlines —from choosing enterprise-level considerations all the way down to upgrading legacy equipment, and everything in between— it’s important not to lose sight of the employees who will be running your serialisation implementation strategy day to day. After all, the quality of your labels and packaging will only be as good as the employees producing it.As regulations change, tried-and-true standards like the FDA’s current good manufacturing principles (cGMPs) and International Standards Organization (ISO) 13485 will go a long way in ensuring every label, package and pallet that leaves your facility is made to the highest quality.Training, buy-in and quality management will be key to your organisation’s success as it attempts to put processes in place to ensure total traceability of every product that cycles through your facility. With the right strategy, quality management system and comprehensive training plan, you should be able to complete any verification requests your facility receives.

Looking forward, pharmaceutical packagers want to be at the leading edge of label technology, quality management, employee training and serialisation. Not only will leading the pack on this charge help you achieve compliance in the coming year — it also offers you a competitive advantage in cross-organisational collaboration up and down the supply chain for years to come.

This article originally appeared on the Resource Label Group learning center.