Safety First

Bonnie Howard November 28, 2014


Product protection now means so much more than simply ensuring it reaches its destination without damage; it now encapsulates tamper-evidence and anti-counterfeiting. So what can be done to help protect pharmaceutical goods?

It is estimated that counterfeit drugs are currently worth over $75 billion in global trade and criminals are becoming increasingly competent in packaging their products. One way to prevent counterfeit problems adopted by many pharmaceutical companies is to integrate security within the product packaging. In the healthcare market this can include a variety of technologies which can be integrated into the product packaging, be it a carton, label, overwrap or specialised tear tape.

Foil the counterfeiters with Essentra’s essentials

Foil the counterfeiters with Essentra’s essentials

Bespoke packaging solutions can carry a variety of sophisticated brand protection devices including layering overt and covert authentication and tamper-evidence technologies alongside the brand design features.


Overt features enable instant authentication of packaging through visual inspection by the user without requiring expert knowledge. Optically variable features such as holographic devices and colour-shift inks are some of the most common and effective overt security features, enabling packaging to be validated both quickly and easily.

Covert technologies such as infra-red (IR) and ultra-violet (UV) inks, microtext and microscopic tagging are invisible and difficult to detect and replicate without specialist detection equipment. Forensic solutions include molecular markers, and biological tracers offer another level of authentication, but these features can only be identified using laboratory equipment.

Always the reel thing…

Always the reel thing…

Images printed with UV inks are only visible under a UV light. UV inks are available in different frequencies, so depending on the formulation of the ink, the investigators will need to use either a long-wave or short-wave UV light in order for the printed images or text to become visible.

In addition to this, covert technologies such as taggants can also be placed on to packaging, with the most effective being completely invisible and only detectable with a special reading device. As with other covert technologies, taggants can only be identified by the brand owner or people they equip with the appropriate knowledge and technology, to provide conclusive verification.


Authentication solutions used to ensure tamper-evidence can be overt, covert, forensic, or any combination. They can protect against tampering, refilling, counterfeiting and diversion and assist in meeting the requirements of The Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD).

Tampering can often render products unsafe, dangerous or in some cases even fatal. Tamper-evident seals provide a clear indication that tampering has occurred and can protect your customers and brands from potentially harmful interference.

Tear tape is an ideal medium to incorporate easy-opening, tamper-evidence and security into product packaging efficiently and cost-effectively. Ten colour gravure printing and sophisticated slitting lines ensure tape products meet exacting print and quality standards and can be applied to a wide range of packs, from flexible overwraps and sleeves to cartons, boxes and even hermetically sealed packs.


So how can companies maximise security? It is important to use both overt and covert design features which complement each other and are jointly used on packaging, integrated into the design of the carton, label or tear tapes.

Added a-peal: keep  products tamper-free

Added a-peal: keep products tamper-free

Packaging companies’ Design Studios can provide design capability for customers, adding value and delivering customised design concepts and
artwork creation for packaging, building in security as part of the overall pack design.

With the use of increasingly sophisticated counterfeit methods, drug counterfeit criminals continue to advance and profit at the cost of public
safety and company revenue. It is essential to implement overt, covert and forensic technologies to ensure that criminals are unable to re-use, copy or misappropriate pharmaceutical drugs or drug packaging.

Anti-theft, tamper-evidence and authentication solutions enable inferior and potentially harmful counterfeit products to be reliably intercepted and stolen genuine products to be recovered. By implementing the new packaging security techniques, robust and reliable protection from tampering, copying and brand infringement is enabled and counterfeiting will become a less profitable and more challenging process.