According to the Transported Asset Protection Association, pharmaceuticals are one of the most valuable types of cargo stolen today with the average loss value rising. In 2016, the average loss value for pharmaceutical cargo rose by 11% to $265,209. This included a single theft at $ 1 million and 91% of thefts reporting a value.  Notable are the methods of theft to obtain pharmaceuticals.  One of the most utilized methods of theft is pilferage, with the pharmaceutical industry having one of the highest rates of pilferage with any single product type at 26% in 2016. Pharmaceuticals are cost dense and large profits can be had with relatively small scale thefts such as pilferage. In addition, pilferage can also serve as an advanced intelligence gathering method for criminals. This allows for verification of the suspected contents of a load as well as determining if any security countermeasures are in place.

In the pharmaceutical industry, the cost of loss goes beyond retail value. According to the insurance company Chubb, the retail value of the stolen product is only part of the story. For example, Chubb reported that “for every $1 of direct cost recovered from insurance, as much as $4 is lost to non-reimbursable indirect costs related to lost sales, replacement shipments, customer dissatisfaction and implementation of theft deterrence.”  In addition to these major indirect costs, the results of shortage or compromised product in the healthcare marketplace can cause added costs. In fact, 65 percent of all drug shortages are caused by manufacturing and quality issues, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

What can be done by pharmaceutical manufacturers to prevent loss and contamination of products?  A layered security approach that is effective at all stages of the supply chain and manufacturing process is best.  Continuously audit your processes from end to end and work to put in place ways to see what can be improved upon.  

Using different types of security seals throughout the manufacturing process can improve controls and establish a secure chain of custody. For both raw materials and finished goods, the tagging of drums, bins, and bags increases traceability and accountability. Nylon ingredient bags are often sealed with our Secure-Grip or Ultra Bag Strap both of which have teeth built into the that prevent them from slipping off bags.  For applications on drums, many end-users use a cable seal or a plastic padlock to secure the bolt and ring closure on the drum, feeding the cable through the aperture to prevent tampering. Most pharmaceutical applications for sealing drums typically call for smaller diameter seals of 1/16th inch or 1.5 mm unless there is a cross-border shipment that needs a Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) Compliant Cable Seal.  The seals can use a number of different metals for their bodies but the most common are zinc and aluminum with an attached steel cable. For example, The FlexSecure FS 15 is a 1.5 mm (1/16”) anodized aluminum bodied cable seal that is regularly used in high value shipments.  The FlexSecure FS 15 has a tamper-evident cable that separates into individual strands when cut and cannot be resealed. Depending on each application, government regulations can dictate the need for specific diameters, lengths, or composition of the seals. The use of numbered security seals adds an additional layer of security. The unique and sequential numbered seals can be logged to safeguard against tampering. 

Further, because of increased needs for tracking and traceability, seals are often barcoded to reduce the likelihood of human error. Barcodes will help workers to reduce mistakes in recording the numbers assigned to each asset. As an alternative to bar codes, some cable seals can even be made with a removable tag that can serve the same function in removing human error without the need for any supporting technology.

In the transport of ingredients or finished goods, the use of high security cable seals and bolt seals for high value pharmaceutical loads protects your precious cargo.  Hybrid tamper evident devices are crucial for transporting high value vaccines and medicines and preventing the likelihood of loss. Seals like the SeaLock offer the highest levels of security by immobilizing locking doors while at the same time locking the door latch. The Sealock SL is a hybrid cargo security device consisting of a barrier locking bar and indicative cable seal. The device requires two cuts for removal, and exceeds all ISO 11712:2013 Clause 6 standards. The Sealock SL-C is a dual-sided large diameter cable seal that also seals and locks both container doors together and prevents the most common forms of covert intrusion and tampering, while still exceeding CTPAT standards for high security seals.  Protecting containers with seals that are ISO rated High Security gives producers and shippers assurance that their chain of custody is secure. The EZ Loc Plus 1/8 is an ISO 17712:2013 High Security Seal and C-TPAT Compliant. The EZ Loc Plus features a non-preformed security cable that frays when cut with various marking options for customized tracking.  The seal pulls tight for maximum security and can only be removed with cable cutters.

EZ Loc Plus in use

 Across the industry there is a desire to move things quickly and with as few errors as possible. In addition to bar-coded cable seals, over-molded cable seals are growing in popularity. Over-molded cable seals are your standard metal seals with a plastic casing to improve marking and readability by various barcode scanners. This type of seal is resistant to rust and less likely to have the marking tampered with than traditional painted or printed seals.

TydenBrooks is the world’s oldest and largest provider of security and tamper evident seals, including indicative seals, cable seals, bolts, security tapes, labels, and locking devices. Founded in 1873, TydenBrooks is the global leader in innovation & reliability, providing regulatory compliant customizable solutions to track, trace, and authenticate shipments.  TydenBrooks is the only manufacturer of security seals with Food and Drug Administration Certification. Contact us at 1-800-458-SEAL or to tell us about your application needs and learn more about how our security seals can make your supply chain safer.