"We are taking a physical supply chain and creating a digital twin of products and data moving through the chain."

Steve Tallant

SENIOR DIRECTOR, SOLUTION MARKETING GROUP AT SYSTECH, A SOLUTIONS DIVISION OF MARKEM-IMAJE

June 23, 2023

What have been the main updates for Systech and Markem-Imaje in 2022?

One of the bigger things is that Systech is now Systech again. In terms of where our business is going, we are in the final major push in the US for Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) compliance, and this is what our customers are focusing on. That goes throughout the pharmaceutical value chain, as the DSCSA goes beyond just manufacturers, as wholesalers and dispensers must comply. We are working hard to help the whole supply chain be compliant with the upcoming data-driven reality. It is a compelling story in that we are taking a physical supply chain and creating a digital twin of products and data moving through the chain. Folks looking at standard operating procedures throughout the value chain must adjust to this new reconciliation: having both the product and its associated data.

What does demand for your services currently look like?

We had several years of hyper-focus on two things: regulatory compliance and brand protection. These are two parts of the same equation. Heading into 2023, the industries that we are involved with have taken a holistic approach to supply chain visibility and transparency, and this is where we help. There is a lot of momentum there: the whole notion of a supply chain equipped through digitalization is the big key. There is a compliance reality in pharma, but the digital reality of doing more with the data is where the industry is headed. Industry 4.0 is here, and we are part of that automation experience. Working with solutions that will provide AI-impact-driven operational excellence, data can be analyzed to further increase automation’s success.

Can you expand on your latest technological investments?

On the Systech side, we are all about the software, and we want to do more with barcodes. On the brand protection side, we have this technology called UniSecure, which uses inspection cameras to derive a digital e-fingerprint from a barcode on a package for downstream authentication. In a lot of product situations, they are using label converters, and a high-speed web capability allows us to capture thousands of e-fingerprints at their speed. Our main innovation is in fingerprinting technology: using a smartphone, you can detect counterfeits, and diverted products. This is a great offering for our pharma customers, particularly because of the disparity of price points based on geography: you send medicine to sub-Saharan Africa at a reduced price point, it gets moved from the supply chain and arrives in New Jersey. This is a huge issue that is the most non-talked-about in the supply chain today. In pharma, with so many cold chain products, if it is diverted, it is highly unlikely to meet cold chain standards, particularly in vaccines.

What factors are driving the current increase in the counterfeit drugs market?

The pharma counterfeiting market value is US$200 billion and that number is not shrinking. Individuals’ acceptance of online pharmacies will be the next main driver in the boom in counterfeiting. The US DSCSA was constructed to eliminate counterfeits going into this market, and with its final provisions going live in November 2023, the domestic supply chain is going to continue to be safe, and it will be hard for counterfeiters to get products in legitimate outlets.

How do you view the current regulatory environment for compliance and packaging materials?

There are movements afoot, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act, and such initiatives will increase. In terms of overall packaging, it is kind of blurred because of the geopolitical situation. In the US, we will be looking at more serialized packaging mandates in the nutraceuticals and cosmetics industry particularly.

What topics will animate the industry in 2023?

Once the DSCSA goes live in November, I want to know what the impact will be with the exception handling of situations where the data does not reconcile to the physical product. The real world will be very interesting because technically, there could be a lot of products sitting there with data on them. Will that product expire before it gets to the patient? The second thing is brand protection and trying to get the industry to have these layers of product protection. Digital fingerprinting is an effective layer that life sciences firms can use as a protection policy.

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