Governments around the world recognize the problem that the World Health Organization (WHO) once called Substandard/Spurious/ Falsely-labelled/Falsified/ Counterfeit medical products, or SSFFC, but more recently calls Substandard and Falsified medical products. These governments recognize the problem, and their citizens suffer from it, but some of them don’t seem to know what to do about it. Nigeria, Kenya and other countries in Africa have been very assertive in attacking the problems, but other poorer countries without strong central governments can’t afford or don’t have the will necessary to take strong action.
Rich countries impose serialization and tracing requirements, but that only helps to keep the legitimate supply chain clean. Many countries cooperate to shut down illegitimate drug websites, successfully shutting down staggering numbers of websites and seizing massive quantities of illegitimate drugs, but none of these efforts have been successful in curbing counterfeit drug sales through the internet and distribution through the mail. In fact, those numbers rise every year. IQPC recently published an interesting interactive heat map that allows you to explore what different governments around the world are doing today about the scourge of counterfeit drugs within their borders.
Governments have a lot to do, and in most countries, they are doing their part with regulations and law enforcement. But all members of the supply chain play a big role as well. Companies who invest in the minimum technology required to meet regulations in various markets aimed at combating illegitimate drugs should be aware of the limitations of that minimum approach. Even where drug serialization, verification and track and trace systems are required, criminals can still game the system and profit by successfully introducing illegitimate drugs into the legitimate supply chain. The reason is that government-mandated technology must be very low-cost, so it is based on open standards, and the government mandate rarely creates an impenetrable barrier around the supply chain.
According to the PMMI Business Intelligence, Brand Protection and Product Traceability 2016, 25% of pharma brand manufacturers are using covert or smart technology on their products. The technology includes inks, data strings, holograms, and taggants. I would add fingerprinting technologies which could revolutionize this space in the next few years (see “Your Plain Old Package: Unlock Its Built-in Brand Protection Capability”).
Brand protection technologies are distinct from the kind of technologies governments mandate. They are proprietary and they cost a little more, but there is a reason for that. They provide a level of brand security that far exceeds mandated technologies. Even if a counterfeiter knows which brand protection technology is in use on a product package, attempting to replicate it will usually result in their own signature being left behind, which can be exploited in prosecutions.
Keeping up-to-date on the latest technologies available for meeting the challenges of counterfeit drugs and brand protection is hard. Things change. Fortunately IQPC is hosting the 7th Pharma Anti-Counterfeiting and Brand Protection Summit at the Hilton Garden Inn City Center Philadelphia, PA on March 26-28, 2018. The speaker list for this event is loaded with industry veterans and technology experts. This should be a great event for anyone wanting a survey of the available anti-counterfeiting and brand protection technologies, plus you can have a one-on-one conversation with each of the experts—all under one roof. There is no better way to explore your options in a short period of time. Get the agenda and see for yourself. Don’t miss this event.