The tale of the tape: A product tampering case study (Healthcare Packaging)

The tale of the tape: A product tampering case study
Mary Stellmack
Healthcare Packaging – March 5, 2013

In 1982, seven deaths were linked to cyanide-laced capsules of Extra-Strength Tylenol. To prevent these kinds of tragedies, pharmaceutical companies spend large amounts of time and money to protect their products from tampering. McCrone Associates occasionally receives examples of suspected product tampering attempts for analysis. The company is typically asked to compare the suspect sample to a pristine sample to look for evidence of foreign materials or physical manipulation of the carton, container, and/or the product.

A visual exam, using both the naked eye and a stereomicroscope, is often the most powerful tool for confirming a product tampering attempt. The analyst compares the physical appearance of each surface of the sample to the reference sample to look for any anomalies. During the microscope exam, a variety of lighting sources are often needed to discern minor differences in texture and color and the presence of foreign materials on the surfaces.

Recently, we received two small [paper]board boxes that had contained bottles of a prescription drug. One box was a customer complaint sample from a suspected tampering attempt, and the second box was from a known good sample. One end of each box was open, and a clear plastic adhesive “tape” strip that was used to seal each box was also present, but had been peeled away from the box surface.

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