To Maintain Customer Trust, Adopt Ingredient Traceability

By Gustavo Zientek, CEO of Consultare


Gustavo Zientek

It might not always be obvious, but trust is an invaluable part of the pharmaceutical industry. Patients believe their doctors will prescribe them what they need, they trust the Food and Drug Administration to make sure approved medicines are safe, and they expect pharmaceutical companies to be forthright about the ingredients that go into their products.

That trust is fragile, and it can be broken easily through a lack of accountability and transparency in the pharmaceutical industry. This is especially true for pharmaceutical companies that have to work hard to build consumer trust — especially when recalls are on the table.

If these organizations want to maintain a trustworthy image and connect with their customers, transparency in the pharmaceutical industry needs to become a higher priority. One way to address this situation is to highlight your commitment to ingredient traceability.

Companies and Consumers Value Ingredient Traceability

When ingredient origins aren’t properly tracked, pharmaceutical companies can become vulnerable to many preventable issues. Left unchecked, these gaffes can affect consumer health and company revenue.

When discrepancies lead to medication recalls, not knowing which components contribute to each batch can lead to confusion and overcorrection. Companies have to rely on date ranges rather than focusing on specific units, which means perfectly safe products can get swept up in recalls. It also makes replacing the recalled medication more difficult if it’s unclear which replacements are safe. That can lead to a costly search for alternatives, which could even involve sourcing remedies from competitors.

The prevention of product recalls isn’t the only advantage of making ingredient traceability a higher priority. Patients with particular sensitivities, for example, could be in danger if all ingredients aren’t adequately declared. Any instances where this becomes a problem degrades trust and harms a brand’s public standing. Implementing proper traceability can offset most of this damage and help build consumer trust along the way.

How to Incorporate Ingredient Traceability Into Your Engagement

Many consumers already recognize the benefits that ingredient traceability offers both consumers and pharmaceutical companies. Even the FDA is moving closer to mandating ingredient traceability.

Organizations shouldn’t consider whether to begin tracking product integrity — they should focus on where to begin tracking. Here are a few ways to get started:

1. Implement a system that manages ingredient declaration. A simple aspect of traceability is ingredient declaration. In theory, listing each ingredient of a product should be relatively straightforward. However, it can be an easy spot to make a preventable mistake.

You can put systems in place designed to inspect ingredients and prevent cross-contamination. But if you don’t have a process that prevents ingredient mislabeling during the packaging and storing process, then you’re setting yourself up for trouble.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service offers guidelines that can be applied to pharmaceutical operations. This list of regulations can help catch avoidable errors in ingredient declaration and assist in the prevention of product recalls.

2. Organize your batch records. For proper ingredient traceability, it’s not enough to comply with regulations — you need to go a few steps further. How you handle batch records is particularly important because they allow you to keep track of product batch history from sourcing to manufacturing to delivery. These records guide production and keep track of what happens during that process.

One great way to ensure the product integrity of your batch records is to follow current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) standards. These go above and beyond federal regulations to ensure product safety and traceability while helping companies build consumer trust.

3. Adopt the GS1 label standard. This is another relatively simple change that can make a significant difference. At its most basic, the GS1 label standard mandates that each logistic unit should have its own unique serial number known as a Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC).

Adding this code to each unit simplifies tracking and makes it more efficient to route shipments, automate receiving, and cross-dock products. You can also match relevant electronic messages with each unit using this serial number.

Customers today are a savvy group with access to a greater wealth of knowledge. This makes researching and comparing different pharmaceutical brands almost trivially easy. By creating a process that can track ingredient traceability, you can build consumer trust by offering reassurance that you value product integrity above all else.


About the author

Gustavo Zientek is the CEO of Consultare, an ERP consultancy that specializes in helping businesses optimize accounting, marketing, and other elements of their workflow through the distribution and implementation of SAP Business One applications. Zientek resides in Miami.