EDITORIAL: Securing Your Products

If the year 2004 had an overall theme, arguably it was security. Not just for the average jittery American still worried about terror fears, but also for pharmaceutical companies trying to make sure their products were safe and secure. With several high-profile product recalls and at least one devastating product contamination during the year, not to mention increasing counterfeit drug activity, it proved to be a challenging year for many, to say the least.

Fortunately, industry wasn’t just sitting around immobilized by fear. Instead, one look at a 2004 calendar showed dozens of anticounterfeiting and product security conferences, not to mention the countless trade shows that had special security pavilions and presentations. FDA, too, made security one of its top priorities during the year, launching several new radio-frequency identification (RFID) initiatives and sending representatives to several conferences.

And now that 2005 is underway, you can expect security to be even more at the forefront of pharmaceutical and medical packaging issues. With counterfeiters having access to better technology, the prevention of diversion, counterfeiting, and contamination will surely remain this year’s biggest challenge. In fact, the ability to track and trace products through the supply chain is more essential now than it has ever been.

That’s why PMP News is launching a new monthly column, Track & Trace, in this edition of the magazine (see page 20). Each month, you can expect to hear from industry experts and pharmaceutical packaging companies about the importance of tracking and tracing products. From the most up-to-date RFID news to in-depth looks at covert and overt security features, we hope to tap into the most timely and vital information out there. Through first-person accounts, Q&A formats, and news articles, this new column will reflect all that’s happening in track-and-trace initiatives.

Our inaugural column, written by Nosco’s Gregg Metcalf, provides an excellent introduction to the various methods of “finger-printing” drug products throughout the distribution network. Metcalf covers how companies can maintain visibility and control of their products as they move all the way from manufacturing to the end customer. He also echoes what many industry experts are saying these days: RFID, while arguably the most promising anticounterfeiting and tracking technology available, is nowhere near a magic bullet. While we’ll be looking at RFID frequently in this column, Metcalf reminds us that there are many other ways to effectively track and trace products while keeping them safe and secure. Bar codes, mass serialization, authentication, color-shifting inks, taggants, holograms, and optical watermarks are just a few of the methods he discusses.

We hope you find our Track & Trace column to be a solid introduction to the various technologies that are out there. We also urge you to visit that space each month to learn about other exciting developments in this fast-moving segment of the industry. And we welcome your ideas as we go forward. If you’ve got any new track-and-trace programs you’d like to tell us about, we’d love to hear from you.

Ben Van Houten, Senior Editor

 

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