Innovations In Medicine Packaging To Fight Counterfeiting

Innovations In Medicine Packaging To Fight Counterfeiting
23 Apr 2024
10 mins
Table Of Content
Innovations In Medicine Packaging To Fight Counterfeiting

    Counterfeit medicines are posing an ever-growing threat, becoming more sophisticated and deceptive, and making it increasingly challenging to differentiate them from the genuine products. This not only undermines brand reputations but also endangers the lives of consumers. So, how can we tackle this threat head-on?


    One powerful approach is through innovation in medicine packaging. By arming our packaging systems with advanced technology, we can detect and prevent counterfeit medicines. Today, let's dive into the latest advancements in medicine packaging systems and explore how these innovations can help safeguard the integrity of pharmaceuticals and protect consumers from counterfeit medicine.


    Counterfeit Medicine: How to Spot the Fakes?


    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), counterfeit medicine is defined as medicine that has been deliberately/fraudulently mislabeled with respect to its source or identity. It may lack active ingredients, contain the wrong active ingredients, or have an inappropriate dose of active ingredients. Falsification of medicine can occur in treatments for diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.

    How does the packaging sector help identify counterfeit medication?


    The authentication of the packaging in medicine plays a crucial role in identifying the authenticity of medicine in the pharmaceutical field. Moreover, it is the first and simple step to detect the originality of the drug in a world full of fake and unauthorized medication. The WHO has suggested that counterfeit medicines can be identified by examining the packaging condition, such as spelling, manufacturer details, expiration dates, and appearance of the medicines. However, we need to accept the fact that counterfeit medicines are growing with the technology, which makes them more similar to the original drugs. 

    What are the strategies to Identify counterfeit medication using the packing?


    Some of the strategies that help to identify counterfeit medicines using the packaging system are given below:


    Serialization is assigning a unique code to each package of medicine that can be tracked throughout the whole process of the supplier system. Serialization of the product includes the following technology, which is given below:


    1. Barcodes: They are used to identify the product's supply chain and can give detailed information about the product, such as batch number, expiry date, National Drug Code (NDC), and Lot number. Barcodes are usually in linear, scripted, or 2-D data matrix format.
    2. RFID Technology: Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is a unique wireless technology that involves tags and readers. The reader is a device consisting of one or more antennas emitting radio waves. At the same time, the tag receives signals and contains detailed information about a specific product and its supply chain details. When a person needs to verify the authenticity of a product, the RFID tag can be scanned to identify the product's details and track its supply chain.


    Overt technology:

    Overt technologies are used visibly in the packaging system of the medicine to protect the authenticity of the medicine from the counterfeit manufacturer.


    1. Holographic: 

    Holographic elements such as dots, lines, waves, and other unique features can effectively prevent counterfeit medicine in the pharmaceutical field. These elements are difficult for counterfeiters to replicate due to their cost and complexity. Additionally, holograms can serve as tamper-evident features to protect the authenticity of the medicine. If someone tries to remove a hologram from a product label, cap, or seal, it will leave a visible mark on the holographic image, indicating tampering with the product.

    Other than this, security sealing and breakable caps are some of the tampering evidence techniques used to prevent counterfeit medicine.

    2. Colour-shifting security inks and films:

    Color-shifting inks are special inks that can appear as one or more distinct colors when viewed from different angles. Only a few suppliers produce these inks, and their distribution is tightly controlled to ensure security for the original manufacturers. Due to these security measures, counterfeiters often fail to use this type of ink in fake medicines.

    3. Security graphics:

    Security graphics such as fine line color printing and the subtle use of pastel spot colors are difficult for counterfeiters to scan and reproduce. Incorporating micro text and latent images into the product's design can also help protect its authenticity from fake manufacturers or counterfeiters.



    1. It aids in verifying the authenticity of the product for the user.
    2. It provides a more secure production of medicine
    3. It helps to stop the production of counterfeit medicine by its fake manufacturer.
    4. It can produce supply chain details for the user.




    1. The user needs an education to understand the security system of the drug.
    2. It may be easily mimicked.
    3. It may be expensive to produce.
    4. It may give a false assurance.

    Covert security:


    The covert security feature helps to identify the counterfeit drugs to the brand owners. Here are some of the techniques which can help to prevent counterfeit medicines:

    1. Invisible printing: Using invisible inks in the product printings, which can be visible under certain conditions like UV or IR wavelength, can help to prevent counterfeit medicine.
    2. Embedded image: Manufacturers can use an invisible image that can be embedded and visible under a certain filter. This helps to prevent the reproduction of the image under normal scanning methods.
    3. Digital watermarks: Manufacturers can use digitally encoded invisible data that can be captured and verified by a webcam, mobile phone, or other software equipment while remaining invisible to the naked eye.
    4. Hidden marks and printing: Using special marks or prints can prevent duplicating the original products from the fake manufacturer.
    5. Anti–copy or Anti-scan design: Anti-copy or anti-san design is a unique pattern or design that looks uniform. Still, when you try to copy or scan, it becomes a latent image that is not present in the original.
    6. Laser coding: Laser coding, which can provide variable batch details, requires specialized and expensive equipment. Applying laser codes to packaging materials such as cartons, labels, plastics, and metal components can be challenging.



    1. It is simple and cost-effective to implement.
    2. It needs no regulatory approval.
    3. It can be easily added to the product.
    4. The original manufacturer can easily identify it.




    1. It is highly confidential and needs strict secrecy.
    2. If this secret breaks out, it can be easily copied all over.
    3. It is difficult to add a supplier chain due to the complex security options.
    4. Requirements of equipment in manufacturing.

    Forensic markers:


    Forensic markers are unique identifiers that help detect counterfeit medicines from authenticated medicines.


    1. Biological taggants: Adding a biological marker in very low concentrations to the product's coating or packaging can make it undetectable to counterfeiters while remaining highly specific to the original product.

    2. Micro taggants: 

    Micro taggants are particles visible only under the microscope. They contain unique coded information for each variant, which can be in alphanumeric data or fragments of multicolored or multilayered laminates with a signature color combination embedded in the product's packaging.


    In this technology-driven era, it is challenging to detect and prevent counterfeit medicine due to the use of advanced technology that makes fake medicine closely resemble genuine products. One way to combat counterfeit medicine is by leveraging the same technology counterfeiters use to produce fake products. It is also crucial to educate people about counterfeit medicine and how to use technology to detect it. Technological innovations in medicine packaging are necessary to ensure the authenticity of generic medicines. Incorporating digital technologies and highly secured data into pharmaceutical packaging can help prevent the production and distribution of counterfeit medicine.

    Written by
    Ishwarya RMedical Content Writer
    AboutIshwary R is a Medical Content Writer at MrMed. She completed her PG from the University of Madras, Chennai. She did her final year project in CSIR-CLRI, Adyar, entitled Studies on production of Biosurfactant by bacillus subtilis using Leather industry bioproduct. She did her offline internship and learned clinical Laboratory skills in Billroth hospital and her online internship in SS Healthcare. She strengthened her skills in research, writing, editing, and proofreading medical content, blogs, and scientific articles.
    Tags :Innovation in medicine packagingMedicine packagingFight counterfeiting