Good medicines come in quality packages

Example of an online pharmacy with pills in a basket

In the third of a series of six articles, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) launches the Know Your Pill initiative, to educate patients on the untold story of the medicine and throw light on the technological intervention in supply chain management that will ensure good medicines are delivered through superior and technologically-driven supply chain management

Imagine a village in the desert of Rajasthan. In the scorching heat of 480 celsius, a baby is waiting for a vaccine. Of all the medicinal products to be sold and administered all over the world, the most difficult to manufacture, transport and store are the injectables. Whether they are vaccines and antisera of various kinds, high-end antibiotics, the growing range of biotech medicines and biosimilars, they have to be maintained within a narrow range of temperature and humidity.

Maintenance of the ‘cold chain’ for vaccines as they travel from the manufacturing site to the far-flung areas across miles of deserts is often the reason for success or failure of many immunisation campaigns. Vaccines and biologicals have to be stored under very strict conditions of temperature and humidity, or else they may lose their efficacy. As the number of biotechnology-based medicines increase all over the world, these challenges are beginning to multiply.

kyp100x150When a doctor prescribes a medicine, and we consume it, both parties depend on the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that the medicines reach the drugstore in a proper condition. Often pharma products travel immense distance, across continents, varying zones of temperature, humidity and a lot more. Storage as well as packaging become critical components of the supply chain.

Packaging of today’s pharmaceutical medicines must be child-resistant yet easy-to-handle for the elderly. Western countries are using glass or plastic bottles, to make the medicine more senior citizen friendly. Packaging of syrups and liquid medication have to ensure that the consistency of liquid medicines are maintained throughout its effective life, that is until it passes the expiry date, and this partly depends on the choice of packaging materials. Often, special design elements are built into the labelling or the company logo on the aluminium strip, which can help to differentiate them from counterfeit products.

A few years ago, Bilcare, based in Pune, introduced what it calls a non-clonable-ID, with the help of which the pharma company can ensure that only its authentic products move ahead in the journey towards the final consumer.

The PwC Report titled ‘Pharma 2020: Supplying the future Which path will you take?’ points out that by 2020, the ability to manage risk and compliance throughout the supply chain will be more crucial than ever before. While globalisation is increasing the risks, greater public awareness and more diligent enforcement are raising the bar. The Indian government recently passed a law mandating the use of track-and-trace barcodes on all drugs meant for export, with effect from July 2011, following reports that Chinese counterfeiters were selling fake medicines labelled ‘Made in India’ in several African countries

Understanding this shift of emphasis from products to patient outcomes is critical: new development technologies that include formulations that are easy to manufacture; new manufacturing technologies including virtual engineering; process tomography and other such technologies transgenic engineering; and more importantly new distribution technologies such as cloud computing and special features such as bokode, will be able to deliver significant benefits to every stakeholder in the healthcare value chain.

To summarise, whichever road pharmaceuticals take, they will need to get closer to patients, and technological intervention in supply chain management will ensure that good medicines are delivered through superior and technologically driven supply chain management.

Issued in public interest by OPPI Watch this space for the fourth in
the KYP series- The Journey of the pill