Outsmarting the Counterfeiters

The Pharmaceutical (and other!) industries continuously aspire to update its defences against counterfeit action; through supply chain regulation and importantly through novel packaging technology. However, in recent times, following on from other regions the 28 EU member states has introduced the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) in an attempt to form a united front by 2017.

The purchasing freedom given to consumers by the internet and easy mobility has made it easier for these criminals to manufacture and distribute counterfeit drugs. Containing no active ingredient, or other harmful substances eg rat poison!!

“10–30% of pharmaceutical drugs in circulation in the world are counterfeit” [1]

“The European Commission (DG TAXUD) reports that, in 2013, more than 25% of the products detained were for daily use and would be potentially dangerous to the health and safety of consumers” [1] Contrary to common belief, the problem is not only confined to developing regions (where up to 30% of all medicines sold are counterfeit), some estimates of around 10% are the norm in EU Member States and its growing as the borders fall.

“Up to one million people die annually from counterfeit pharmaceuticals” [2]

The battle to fight back is taking place globally through the use of serialisation and other anti-counterfeit technologies such as micro-text and colour shift inks, but to keep ahead of the criminals, manufacturers are exploiting new and exciting overt/covert technologies which are at the forefront of science. In the IOP journal “Nanotechnology” it was reported that Silver nanowires (10 to 50μm in length) could be arranged onto thin films and are used as a marker for authenticity – the advanced nature of this technology would prove product provenance. Nano-phosphors detectable only when subjected to specific wavelengths of light are also being considered as a unique yet feasible solution
“The EU faces projected baseline costs of €1.8–22bn to 2020 for hospitalizations as a consequence of treatment using counterfeit medicines” [2]

iDi Pac’s belief is that multiple levels of security, with both overt and covert features, provide the best mitigation strategy to the risk of counterfeit. It is a race – a race that must be won! As the technology available improves, so does the capability of the counterfeiters. Manufactures need to maintain awareness of the risks, and technology seeking to regularly refresh to ensure that they understand their business through traceability and analysis of weak nodes within the supply chain.
[1] Sophic Capital, Counterfeiting, 2014: http://sophiccapital.com/wpcontent/uploads/2014/10/Download-Full-Counterfeiting-ReportHere.pdf

[2] 2015 Situation Report on Counterfeiting in the European Union, Europol and the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, April 2015, p.36

For more information on counterfeit risk mitigation or compliance with the FMD, please contact office@idipac.com

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