Inventory optimization and authentication in the pharma supply chain

A multiplicity of technologies needed to stay ahead of the curve

(L-R) Packaging South Asia editor Naresh Khanna; Sanjeev Sharma, regional head of the holography business at UFlex; Girijesh Srivastava, global supply chain manager at Sun Pharmaceutical Industries; and Raman Sharma, IT head, Fasiculus. Photo PSA

The first PACK.Nxt conference in Mumbai on 18 January 2024 had several panel discussions on Authentication and Security. The panel that discussed packaging hurdles, design and anti-counterfeiting, blockchain and transparency, particularly with reference to pharmaceutical products, was moderated by Packaging South Asia editor Naresh Khanna.

The panelists included Girijesh Srivastava, global supply chain manager at Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, who said that inventory optimization is very important for the pharma supply chain. “We have come up with a number of methodologies that help us identify the constraints in the supply chain to find out the bottlenecks that result in counterfeiting of products. These methodologies help us to track the inventory of the product from formulation till it reaches the end user.”

Khanna said many pharma manufacturers now practice IoT within their pharma plants to track the authenticity of active pharmaceutical ingredients or APIs. While counterfeiting of pharmaceutical drugs is a major challenge from the manufacturing point of view, Srivastava added that several solutions such as blockchain and track and trace serialization are addressing these. “There is a specific time frame for testing pharma ingredients and drug formulations which also has a direct impact on the life cycle of pharmaceutical drugs,” he said.

“We need to understand how counterfeiting works in the pharmaceutical market,” said Sanjeev Sharma, regional head of the holography business at UFlex, adding, “Counterfeiters work in parallel to the main supply chain and you always find counterfeited products in shops and outlets that don’t make it a point to authenticate and stock the original products. Secondly, counterfeiters don’t work on technology but completely rely on the jugaad system. In order to deal with the counterfeiting ecosystem, pharma manufacturers need to incorporate more than one technology in their packaging.”

UFlex offers a variety of holographic solutions to the pharma industry, Sharma said, adding that the holographic industry has incorporated a host of new technologies from the time the first generation holograms were introduced. “UFlex adds security features on the surface of the packaged pharma products, which are easily identifiable by the end users at the time of purchase.” The company mainly focuses on covert features that are easily identifiable without the use of gadgets such as mobile phones.

Raman Sharma, IT head, Fasiculus, added, “Being a solutions provider, we always maintain that in addition to the covert and overt features, we need to have some additional features which can be easily authenticated by the end-customers. If we empower the end-users, they can self-authenticate the products that they purchase.”

The discussion then moved back to Srivastava where he said that there are numerous challenges in blockchain technology for the pharmaceutical industry. While quality is the topmost priority of the pharma industry, he said every country has its specific regulatory requirements for pharmaceutical packaging and validation of patents. “Blockchain is a robust technology which helps us to address the end-to-end product packaging, making it tamper-proof,” he added.

Collaboration is needed to create an ecosystem within the pharma industry to make blockchain technology more effective, Khanna suggested, adding that standardization of the packaging for various consumer segments could be one way to ease the identification of materials and get them into the right waste streams for recycling.

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