Pharma Focus Asia
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Anti-counterfeiting – Technology

Sarabjeet Singh Sharad, Senior Research Analyst, Beroe Inc.

International free trade and inadequate drug regulation have led to the expansion of trade in counterfeit drugs worldwide. Almost 10 % of medicines representing close to $75 billion globally are said to be illegal. Around 1% of products in the legal pharmaceutical supply chain in the developed world are estimated to be counterfeit, while this figure is 10-15% in emerging markets and 30% in developing countries. Drug counterfeiting is expected to increase in the future as pharma is expanding to emerging and developing market where this demand for pharmaceuticals products will increase the supply of counterfeit drugs in future. Technological protection is seen to be the best way to avoid this problem, which will strengthen the security of pharmaceutical supply chain through innovative technologies like overt, covert, forensic and track and trace. This article will emphasize on the use of these technologies in pharma.

Key Highlights

  • In 2012 US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that 19 medical practices had bought counterfeit versions of Roche's cancer drug bevacizumab (Avastin)
  •  In 2009, the European Union seized 34 million fake tablets in just 2 months
  • 12 percent of the prescription drugs distributed in Russia were counterfeit - (The Coalition for Intellectual Property Rights)
  • 75 per cent of fake drugs supplied world over have some origins in India, followed by 7 per cent from Egypt and 6 per cent from China -(Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development)
  • 123 countries where counterfeit drugs have been confirmed in 2012
  • The global sales of anti-counterfeiting packaging technologies were worth USD 64 billion in 2010, and the value is projected to be USD 74.2 billion in 2015.
  • Track and trace technologies and authentication technologies made up for sales of USD 31.7 billion and is projected to be USD 36.5 billion in 2015.
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturers use a combination of overt and covert features to safeguard their product against counterfeiting. For e.g. Holograms, being an overt feature can be used as a primary method for product authentication, followed by Nano-text and hidden images (that is so minute and almost invisible to naked eyes) as second and third
  • Pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer (Viagra), Purdue Pharma (Oxycontin) and GSK (Trizivir) have implemented RFID technology for specific brands of their product.
  • Holograms, being an overt feature can be used as a primary method for product authentication, followed by Nano-text and hidden images (that is so minute and almost invisible to naked eyes) as second and third level technique respectively.
  • Bar codes are used as a track and trace mechanism by incorporating it to unit level packs on pharma cartons, which is authenticated by scanning and referring it to a central database

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