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Packaging must adapt to digital pharmacies


COVID-19 changed the way we shop. Since the pandemic, consumers in all sectors are increasingly flocking online for their purchases, including for pharmaceutical goods. For example, last year’s internet sales accounted for almost 27% of all purchases made in the UK, up from 20% in 2020.

This growth, compounded by other factors like an aging population, is having a profound effect on the pharmaceutical industry.

Online pharmacies are experiencing a period of rapid growth. Offering convenience, time savings and potential lower costs for consumers, it’s easy to see why. Patients have more opportunity to search for and compare services, better informing them about the products they buy.

By 2027, this market is predicted to reach a value $211.9 billion, growing at a CAGR of 17% from 2022. For pharmaceutical manufacturers, this represents a more direct path to their customers and a potentially expanded customer base by enabling them to tap into markets worldwide.

However, with this expansion into the online realm, pharma companies will have to pay even more thought to how their packaging can safeguard their products.

The rise of digital pharmacies not only introduces new opportunities for businesses, it widens the market for counterfeiters to spread. Behind the anonymity of the computer screen, it’s relatively simple for criminals to set up international operations complete with global shipping operations. For the pharmaceutical sector, this means it could become significantly harder for consumers to distinguish digital pharmacies from those selling unsafe counterfeit products.

Although it is difficult (if not impossible) to accurately measure the number of illegal digital pharmacies operating worldwide, in 2019, two thirds of countries told the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering that they did not have laws specifically regulating or banning the sale of pharmaceutical products online. This lack of oversight presents ample opportunities for criminals to operate in this market.

For example, in the women’s health segment, pregnancy tests and drugs are being widely counterfeited or improperly repurposed and sold online, without prescriptions or advice from healthcare professionals. Anti-obesity medications are another increasingly common target, with many fakes already circulating on the illicit digital market. By 2030, the global market for this class of pharmaceuticals is expected to hit $44 billion, and the widely reported incidents from recent years show criminals are already cashing in.

The threat that this expansion poses is immediately obvious. While online pharmacies in theory give consumers a wider range of options for where to make their purchases, it also significantly raises the risk of them encountering dangerous fake medicines that are presenting as genuine-seeming products. With no option to check the packaging’s security features over the internet, consumers are at risk of unwittingly buying products that both endanger their health and could undermine their confidence in genuine pharmaceutical outlets.

As a result, it’s more important than ever that pharmaceutical packaging is built to tackle the problem of counterfeiting at every turn.

Features like serialisation, tamper-evident labels and closures, reactive and invisible inks, and hidden holograms, all have important parts to play in a layered security system that protects your products against simulation. Making it easy for authorities and customers alike to determine that a pharmaceutical product is genuine, packaging equipped with security features like those provided by MM Packaging offer the ultimate peace of mind – protecting public health and your business’s reputation from the threat of online fraudsters.

It's never been easier to find the right security solutions for your pharmaceutical packaging needs. If you’re interested in finding out more about how MM Packaging’s expertise can protect your products, get in touch with our team today by emailing