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Using packaging to build consumer trust for Internet drug purchases

A package designer addresses how healthcare companies need to secure their packaging against the growing problem of counterfeit drugs sold over the Internet.

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In conducting research for his presentation at the recent HealthPack 2006 conference, Joe Kornick “found a real and growing need for medical and pharmaceutical companies to give special consideration to their Internet packaging.”

President of packaging design and development firm Kornick Lindsay, Kornick says that “although the number of Internet prescription drug purchases is small today (4 percent or about $8 billion dollars), 25 percent of adults have searched for information on prescription drugs. [Some experts] are saying that Internet drug sales today are on the verge of exploding."

80% of on-line drugs counterfeit?

Economics and convenience serve as the motivators. Concerns are trust and safety—62% of Americans think that purchasing prescription drugs online are less safe than purchasing them locally. ICG, a firm that investigates fraudulent Internet activity, estimates that 80% of drugs sold on-line are considered counterfeit.

“So the dilemma,” says Kornick, “is that consumers would like to buy their prescriptions online, but they fear getting ripped off or killed by a bad batch of who-knows-what.”

Kornick believes packaging will play a major role in this area. “It’s not simply a matter of creating the ultimate anti-counterfeit package. We all know the problem with anti-counterfeit solutions. One, the counterfeiters will copy any single solution if the 'carrot' is big enough. Two, most anti-counterfeit solutions are not consumer friendly. Who do you know that has a special magnifying device to read the encrypted code on the hologram or an RFID reader at home? I see a system where packaging coupled with direct consumer Internet communication can provide assurance to consumers.”

Product identify a problem solver

Kornick’s idea: “Design primary or secondary package systems that contain a ‘visible or physical identity’ that can be modified and varied frequently to thwart the counterfeiter and signal product integrity to consumers. Communicate the ‘identity’ to the consumer with the Internet order confirmation so that the consumer knows what to look for in order to confirm the product’s integrity. The robustness of the identity would vary with the probability of counterfeiting--the higher the probability, the more varied the identity.”

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