The Top Challenges Pharma Faces with Packaging and Labelling

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Packaging and labelling play a critical part in safeguarding patients from health and safety risks with medicines. As the life sciences field continues to uncover new health risks of using certain practices and materials, pharmaceutical firms are forced to react by implementing the relevant safety precaution, often with added investment required.

Pharma companies are scrutinising their labelling processes to identify where gains can be had, be that through harmonising the packaging and labelling workflows, through speeding-up the artwork production process or through lowering label recall risks.

According to Pharma IQ’s 2016 report on pharma packaging and labelling trends, in association with Perigord; a range of challenges are present in the market with some being attached to the EU’s Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) requirements. Different country specific laws and the various languages that need to be implemented on label artwork present significant hurdles.

Packaging Space Availability

Large pharma companies and artwork solution providers seem to be the ones challenged the most by producing fully compliant labels and packages within a set deadline. This is because most of these products are being produced for countries worldwide, thus need to ensure that all country laws are complied to, the FMD included. The amount of required space on a package is often scarce, which complicates the process.

Avoiding Supply Chain Disruption

Requirements have made many companies face financial losses due to label recalls and supply chain disruption.  Unfortunately, many companies have not been ready to bring change to their current packaging and labelling workflows. As 2016 trends show, 48% of them still aren’t. Experience shows that with new requirements, there is a need to implement new advanced technologies and new sets of staff qualifications.

International parallel distribution presents added hurdles for pharma firms to ensure they are fully compliant and have correct translations for each country. Especially for regions that lack a stable regulatory system in some areas. Industry members have noted that the most challenging are China, Brazil and Russia.

Commercial Brand Inconsistencies

In keeping up with evolving technical requirements, a pharma company still has to maintain its own brand. However, the branding of the artwork is often left as last priority, due to the lack of space.

Companies need to deploy a stable set of branding standards and guidelines that are simple but also flexible to accommodate for country specific technical health and safety regulations.

Leveraging Automation Technologies

Automation technologies have evolved radically over the recent years and have enabled many companies to cut costs and speed up processes. Packaging quality control software and hardware can be integrated into packaging lines and workflows, yet many companies still aren’t aware of the benefits automation solutions can provide.

One problem area remains with automatically translated text, however, as it is still not sophisticated enough to make the content readable to a native speaker. Companies are left with having to check translations manually. Still, automation platforms are continuously improving and company stakeholders need to be aware of the available automation solutions.

Artwork is the most critical part of a label, and companies must take a strategic approach to define a precise process with standards and guidelines that adhere to the health and safety regulations, technical requirements and commercial demands. This process needs to stay agile, so change and automation can be implemented easily.