Printing drug labels in-house proves to be a healthy option

Anne Marie Mohan

January 29, 2014

6 Min Read
Printing drug labels in-house proves to be a healthy option

For drug manufacturer Victory Enterprises, S.A. of Tijuana, Mexico, proper labeling is critical to the success of its products. Not only must the company ensure that every over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drug product it packages is labeled correctly to meet stringent government regulations, but it also must be able to react immediately to incorporate new labeling requirements, as well as produce its labels quickly and efficiently to get its drugs to market as-needed.

"Printing is something we've always wanted to control ourselves because of our diverse printing needs," says Juan Carlos Macklis, who oversees manufacturing for Victory. "But we wanted a low-cost, simple printing solution that could give us near-print-house-quality, color labels without the printing press."

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Before bringing printing in-house, Victory worked with two, locally based offset-print providers. While quality was not an issue, the printing firms could not adequately meet Victory's need for quick turnarounds. Relates Ricardo Iniguez, Victory's marketing and communications coordinator, "The quality was fine; our needs were very simple in terms of color. The problems were with the deadline irregularities. We needed the capability to have our labels printed immediately upon request, and no print shop has that type of service."

In 2003, while at the WestPack trade show in Anaheim, CA, Macklis and his team discovered the VP8020 digital, color printer from VIPColor Technologies USA, Inc. ( "When we first saw the VP8020 at WestPack," Macklis says, "we were amazed by its printing capacity and speed—especially considering the machine's compact size." (The machine has a footprint of 36.3 in. wide, 29.1 in. deep and 58.3 in. high.)

For the past 20 years, Victory has developed and manufactured drug products for some of Mexico's largest drugstore chains and hospitals, as well as for the Mexican Health Authority (SSA-Secretaria de Salud). Formulated for a wide range of ailments and health conditions, Victory's products include generic equivalents of a number of U.S.-brand OTC and prescription drugs. Among its nearly 50 products are drugs such as Vicsel (the generic equivalent of Prozac), Deflenol (Robitussin), Viczen (Motrin), Dipera (Immodium) and Vistac (Zantac), among others.

Victory operates with 105 employees out of a 35,000-sq-ft facility that includes 27,000 sq ft of space for its granulation, encapsulation, quality-control, research and development, and administrative activities. The plant runs two fully automated counting and filling lines for bottled tablets and capsules that are equipped with desiccant inserters, cotton applicators, cappers and label applicators. The company also offers drugs in blister-packs that are filled using three blister-pack machines. Cartons are printed by a local converter.

Just as Victory has gone to great lengths to guarantee that its Class 100,000 facility meets with the SSA's strict sanitary, temperature, humidity, pressure and air-extraction requirements, it is also painstaking in its adherence to local labeling regulations. In Mexico, drug-product labeling laws are stringent, requiring that packages include proper identification of a drug, the drug's ingredients and any necessary warning disclaimers, among other information.

Victory also adds another layer of complexity to its label designs, using color coding to ensure that drugs are stored correctly in the company's temperature-controlled warehouse. The practice of color coding helps Victory significantly enhance its supply-chain efficiency, since a color bar makes it easy to identify an out-of-place package on a shelf with just a glance.

With so many printing needs, Macklis says his company wanted to print and apply labels in-house to help manage its label inventory costs and to save time.

Since the spring of 2004, Victory has used the VP8020 digital, color production system to print variable-content labels for its medication bottles. Another new system, an Allen Datagraph ( finishing unit, unwinds, die-cuts and rewinds printed labels, while label application is done by three new systems: an AD-2880 RH applicator from QuickLabel Systems ( and two CVC 300 labelers from CVC Technologies (

Says Macklis, "The main benefits of the VP8020 are its speed and durability. With the VP8020 and the new label applicators, we are able to print during all three shifts every day, if needed, and the printer can handle it."

Currently, Victory is using the VP8020 to print approximately 20,000 labels/8-hr shift, with print runs ranging anywhere from 100 to 9,000 labels. The system employs a four-color (CMYK), 600 x1,800-dpi process that enables Victory to print its bottle labels in a range of spot colors, including blue, red, magenta, green, yellow, orange, purple and black. Labels are printed on a semi-gloss, pressure-sensitive webstock and are die-cut into three different sizes that, translated into imperial measurements, equal 4.7x1.7, 5.1x1.9 and 6.3x2.2 in.

The printing method used by the VP 8020 is dry electrophotographic LED exposure, a process that uses a dry toner powder and one LED array per color, rather than a laser imager. According to Adrian Down, marketing director for VIPColor, "The LED arrays are very easy to clean and maintain, and have no moving parts that can wear out or fail."

The printer also uses VIPColor's Cool Fusion(TM) imaging, which Down says is a flash-fusion micro-toner technology. "A very fine toner is fused to the material using light energy rather than rollers, which impart heat and pressure. Rollers are less suited for pressure-sensitive adhesive stocks and run slower.

We wanted a low-cost, simple solution that could give us near-print-house-quality, color labels without the printing press.

"The system provides a very straight, easily accessible material path, a process that avoids crushing the stock and melting and extruding adhesives into the machine."

Cool Fusion technology, Down adds, allows the VP8020 to handle many different label and tag facestocks, including paper and film, in a wide range of thicknesses, at speeds up to 17.7 ft/min.

Another benefit of the VP8020 is its user-friendliness. According to Iñiguez, upon installation of the machine, operators were provided with training on equipment setup, maintenance and training, and they have not had any operational issues since. He adds that job changeover takes just 10 to 15 minutes, and machine maintenance consists of overall routine cleaning and consumable materials stock verification.

With its new digital printer and label applicators, Victory now has significant control over label printing and post-production. Macklis says that a recent study conducted by Victory to evaluate ROI of these systems showed that in the first 10 months of ownership, the company lowered its post-production costs by about 70 percent.

"We have seen firsthand that it is more cost-effective and time-efficient to print in-house than with an outside printer," says Macklis. "The VP8020 offers us a simple printing solution that enables us to create professional-grade labels in the quantities we need, right here in our manufacturing facility."

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