Smedpack is a collaborative research project involving a wide consortium of stakeholders: regulators, pharmacies, academia, civil society organisations, the pharmaceutical industry, and logistics and packaging companies. It aims to prevent counterfeit medicines from entering the legal distribution chain, through concepts for secure pharmaceutical packaging. New packaging concepts (e.g., secure seals, unique serial numbers, apps) will make it easier for consumers and supply chain actors to distinguish genuine products from counterfeit. The ambition is to develop industrially realisable solutions that entail new commercial opportunities.
Pharmaceutical packaging must be designed so the largest consumers of medicine, the ill and the elderly, can easily handle it. Products must also meet the needs of people from different cultures and who speak different languages. Consumer focus groups were asked their views on packaging, and researchers from different disciplines were consulted. The project has been a meeting place for all actors in the supply value chain.
Tailored, informative and easy-to-understand mailings regarding the focus groups were sent to consumers. Otherwise, public communication about the results of the project have been kept to a minimum to keep strategies and results secret from the illegal industry of counterfeit medicines.
Smedpack is Sweden’s proactive response to the discovery of counterfeit medicines discovered in the stock of legal pharmacies in other countries. The project has collected end users’ views on how they currently use medicines, what opportunities they see for improvement and what they think about security issues.
Counterfeit medicines are not a problem in Sweden yet, but will probably become. The project has used workshop scenarios where the partners have cooperated and discussed different future scenarios. The consortium including all stakeholders in the value chain has helped everyone understanding each other´s concerns and perspectives.
The project is a collaboration involving the entire value chain. Stakeholders in the consortium enrich each other by sharing their perspectives and knowledge. Participants have expressed that they understand each other better and have learned a lot from each other, which has benefited project outcomes. The project recognises that it must continually adapt to results and suggestions from its wide range of stakeholders and to changes in the counterfeit medicine industry.
To date, a large number of new packaging designs have been tested by users in different environments. Stakeholders have developed new marketing channels and business partnerships, and logistical solutions have been developed and evaluated.
Thinking big right from the start can result in achieving more than may have been expected. By having a wide variety of stakeholders involved, those who are more constrained by current practices and legislative restrictions are balanced by those who feel more free to be visionaries, which benefits both.