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Printing for the Pharmaceutical Market

Printing for pharma companies is a very different animal than typical package printing.

January 2010 by Chris Mc Loone
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Printing for the pharmaceutical markets may seem like a really good thing to get into. With reports like "World Pharmaceutical Packaging to 2013," from Freedonia Group stating that world pharmaceutical packaging demand is projected to increase 6.3 percent annually to $62.3 billion in 2013, some might consider it a no-brainer to begin investigating. However, there are things printers need to know as they conduct their research. At the bare minimum, they must understand that printing for this market isn't like printing for Good Humor. "It's not like all of a sudden you can say, 'You know what? We don't have any business. Let's go attack J&J and try to get their pharma,'" says Lon Johnson, vice president, national sales, Colbert Packaging. "You can't do it. You've got to be there and live it for a long time."

Unique challenges

Every print job has challenges that must be overcome, but in pharmaceutical packaging, there are additional unique challenges that exist. For example, a printer must adjust its overall operations to accommodate the pharmaceutical business it has garnered.

Security is not only important for the brand itself. A brand owner will want to know what security measures the printer has taken to secure its operation. For example, Adam Scheer, marketing director for the Advanced Optotechnologies Group at JDSU, notes that, "There are now some commercial printers that cater to the pharmaceutical market that have some level of security in their plants in the way they do business, but many do not. That creates a complication because if the supply chain is not secure, and someone can walk out with [raw materials] at the end of the day to create knockoffs in a basement, then the whole integrity of the system is going to collapse."

Johnson adds, "It starts with having 24/7 surveillance throughout the entire building." The printing process also must be secure and accounted for. "For printing, you've got vision scanners, bar code scanners, and glue detection systems," he asserts.

Scheer states that background checks on employees, as well as being able to account for materials and supplies, means printers must open themselves up to audits. Johnson concurs. "All waste streams have to be secure. You can't just take your additional makeready sheets, bundle them and send them out to recyclers." Rather, he says, they must be chopped up, or sometimes the pharmaceutical brand will demand that the printer incinerate the sheets. "And, you have to have a videotape of the actual incineration," he quips. "There's a very tight screen on that as well."

 
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