Pharmaceutical manufacturers have always, by necessity, been at the forefront of label innovation. After all, pharmaceutical labels protect customers from harm, keep manufacturers on the right side of compliance laws, and guide treatment protocols.
In the pharmaceutical industry, labels are critically important. So, it’s no surprise that pharmaceutical companies are eagerly adopting the latest evolution in label technology: smart labels.
What Are Smart Pharmaceutical Labels?
Traditional product labels convey information via printed text and images. Smart labels take this into the digital realm.
Typically, this involves some type of transponder or code that can be read by specialized equipment, such as QR codes, radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, or near-field communication (NFC) chips. Barcodes and NFC chips can be read with most smartphones, while RFID tags communicate with special receivers.
Smart labels are becoming increasingly common in the food and beverage industry. Brands use them to inform consumers about ingredient sources, share tips and recipes, and generally drive engagement at higher levels than is possible with simple printed labels.
Pharmaceutical makers can use smart labels in similar ways.
For example, a label for a bottle of over-the-counter medication might include a QR code or NFC chip that links to a website where customers can find helpful resources for managing a health condition, such as lists of beneficial foods, videos of helpful exercises, and Q&As with leading physicians.
In fact, smart labels can play even more crucial roles for pharmaceutical manufacturing. Here are some ways smart labels can help brands improve efficiency and accuracy, manage inventory, and protect the integrity of products.
Taking Control of the Supply Chain
Smart labels can incorporate track and trace technology to help pharmaceutical makers track their medicines throughout the supply chain, from factories to hospitals to patients and everywhere in between. The resulting data can be analyzed to find holes and redundancies, which can be repaired to boost efficiency. Needs can be anticipated, and manufacturers can ramp up their production accordingly.
RFID tags are particularly suitable for track and trace systems. Each tag can be assigned a unique identification number, making it possible to follow products down to the individual item. RFID readers are effective from a distance and don’t require a direct line of sight to the tags. Readers placed in warehouses and shipping areas can register hundreds of individual tags within seconds.
Preventing Pharmaceutical Counterfeiting and Illegal Sales
The unauthorized sale of prescription medication and pharmaceutical counterfeiting are both major concerns for drug makers. These illicit activities can harm or kill users, damage a brand’s reputation, and prevent customers from getting the medication they need.
The track and trace technology described above is also useful for stopping the diversion of products onto the black market. If a shipment goes missing, the manufacturer will know right away and will be able to launch an investigation immediately, preventing any further losses.
Additionally, smart tamper-proof labels can stop counterfeiters from filling a branded product packaging with fake drugs. For example, the manufacturer can place an NFC label across a package’s opening area. As soon as the seal is broken, the label will register it. Pharmacists, healthcare providers, and patients can scan the packaging with their smartphones to ensure it’s intact and that they have genuine, unadulterated medicine in their hands.
(Learn more about security labels and brand protection in our recent article series.)
Improving Inventory Management in Healthcare Facilities
An inordinate amount of healthcare work time is spent tracking down medications, reordering medications that have expired, and manually counting inventory. Some hospitals and other healthcare facilities have dramatically slashed this time using a system that relies on smart labels.
As soon as a medication enters a facility, it’s tagged with an RFID label and assigned an identifier in the facility’s database. The drugs are placed in “smart cabinets,” which are equipped with RFID readers. The smart cabinets report their contents to the facility’s inventory tracking system, which monitors data such as quantity, location, and expiration date.
Enabled by this real-time inventory information, healthcare workers can spend less time counting and ordering pharmaceutical products and more time taking care of patients.
One hospital that implemented such a system reported that they were able to reduce their time spent counting inventory by 67%. The hospital saved about $120,000 per year by using products before they expired.
Work with a Smart Label Supplier That Understands the Pharmaceutical Industry
Whether you’re interested in smart labels or tried-and-true traditional labels, you want a label printer that understands how vital accuracy and quality is to your company and the patients who rely on your products.
At the Label Printers, we have years of experience serving pharmaceutical brands and their customers. Click here to contact us today.