Combating the counterfeiters

As the worlds’ population ages we are increasingly relying on healthcare products to support us in our later years. Exactly how these critical medicines and goods reach us in safe and secure, yet accessible, packaging, carrying intelligible instructions and promoting brand confidence is, however, anything but straightforward.

The global pharmaceutical market is predicted to total between $1.135 trillion and $1.235 trillion by 2017. An often overlooked element of this is the packaging that these pharmaceutical products are delivered in to consumers. Estimated to be valued at $78.79 billion by 2018, healthcare packaging plays a vital role in not just the delivery of pharmaceuticals to patients, but also delivery of essential information.

Being both large and highly complex, the sector exhibits clear growth patterns, according to Malcolm Waugh, group commercial director at Essentra. “Like many other industries, packaging is experiencing rapid growth in new economies and emerging markets, such as India, China and Brazil,” he says. “An ageing demographic and increased incidence of systemic diseases are also strong drivers worldwide”

Globally, the number of “older” people, aged 60 or over, is expected to more than double from 841 million people in 2013 to over 2 billion in 2050, according to the United Nations. This means that, as a proportion of the world population, more than one in five people (21.1 per cent) will be classified as “older” by 2050. This demographic dynamic calls not just for more product from the packaging sector, but different priorities.


As Mr Waugh explains: “The ageing population is a global megatrend and is driving both growth and innovation, as users’ needs change within healthcare and the packaging they use.

“It is no longer just enough to demonstrate tamper evidence to consumers; it must be accessible tamper-evident packaging. Nor is printing in small font sizes acceptable any more, as pharmaceutical companies need to provide patients with information and patients seek to understand more about the medicines they are taking.”

Responsibility to minimise the environmental impact of packaging is another significant and growing factor in innovation programmes and manufacturing processes. In healthcare packaging, this can manifest itself via efficiencies that are gained in the supply chain via improvements in product assembly which reduce waste and energy consumption.

Companies are supporting the drive for efficiency through innovations such as Essentra’s Combopack™ where a leaflet is already supplied integrated within the carton helping to reduce energy use within the supply chain and minimise waste during the packing of pharmaceuticals.


Wherever there is good news of market growth, particularly involving big-name brands, there are unscrupulous opportunists trading in substandard and illegal goods. And pharmaceutical products and the packaging surrounding them are no exception to this rule.


It is estimated that approximately 15 per cent of the global pharmaceutical industry is counterfeit product. This varies widely in developed and developing countries, but it exists everywhere. Healthcare packaging has a critical role to play as a method to authenticate branded products, and enable consumers and government officials to identify genuine versus counterfeit products.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers have indeed acknowledged the role that packaging can play in their overall strategies to protect their customers, as indicated by the fact that the global anti-counterfeit, anti-tampering and authentication market is projected to grow at a rate of 14.1 per cent over the next five years, with authentication technologies performing higher at 16.3 per cent, due to increasing awareness of counterfeit products.

So how do companies utilise their packaging to provide an added layer of protection and identification of counterfeit products? In general, the best solutions are multi-layered and deployed throughout the supply chain, from pharmaceutical materials supply to the final packaged product.

Solutions range from “covert” features for use by customs agencies, authorised distributors and other parties with access to high-tech readers or other equipment, to sophisticated “overt” identifiers for those who have to rely on the evidence of their own eyes.

Coding adds another level and from the possible interaction with QR codes, through to expert-level forensic features, the use of multi-layer designs and security features, brand owners and generic pharmaceutical producers have a number of options in their armoury to protect their products and the end-consumer.

For Essentra, being ahead of the game on the issue of security and protection is a cornerstone of the company’s success. “We have recognised the importance of providing brand owners and patients with the confidence of product authenticity in areas where pharmaceutical counterfeiting is a real problem. Our portfolio of authentication technologies is world class and already being deployed in pharmaceutical carton production in countries such as China,” says Mr Waugh.

In healthcare markets, Essentra’s expertise in printing, inks and packaging technologies delivers proven results, whether meeting the needs of the European Union Falsified Medicines Directive or protecting global brands from counterfeit.

“Counterfeiting of pharmaceutical products is a serious challenge”, says Mr Waugh. “Its importance to the market is reflected in the investments that we have made to develop a sector-leading position in the provision of brand authentication solutions for healthcare packaging.

“Counterfeiters are sophisticated and dynamic, and in order to continue to help our customers defend their brands and protect their patients, we continue to invest and develop new technologies to retain the advantage, as fakers’ abilities evolve. It’s a fight that will probably never end – and we are determined to keep fighting.”

Essentra is a FTSE 250 company and a leading global provider of essential functional components, packaging and securing solutions to a diversified blue-chip customer base. Its packaging business focuses on delivering value-adding innovation, quality and service to customers through a range of cartons, tapes, leaflets, foils, labels and authentication for the healthcare, consumer and specialist packaging, point-of-sale, and paper and board industries. Customers in more than 100 countries are served from facilities operating in ten countries. Essentra recently announced the further significant expansion of its pharmaceutical and health and personal care packaging capabilities, with the proposed acquisition of Clondalkin Specialist Packaging Division.