Tag Archives: legitimate pharmaceutical supply chain

Some People Actually WANT To Buy Counterfeit Drugs

It’s hard to imagine why people would actually prefer to buy drugs from internet websites that are obviously not licensed legitimate pharmacies.  That is, those that do not require proof of a valid prescription from a legitimate prescriber, and/or do not carry an online pharmacy certification (especially from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, NAPB, VIIPS program).  In an earlier essay I said this about people who would buy drugs from these illegitimate sources:

“Most of the criminal activity has moved out of the legitimate supply chain, mostly onto the internet.  You know, the internet, where criminals can sell drugs directly to the few consumers who are dumb enough to think that someone will sell them legitimate prescription drugs, but do so illegally by not requiring a prescription.  That is, they think that some faceless company would be willing to knowingly break one law, but could then be trusted to provide real pharmaceuticals at below market prices.  In the age of the internet, how do you protect people who are that gullible?”

A few weeks after writing that rather disparaging passage I met one of those gullible people Continue reading Some People Actually WANT To Buy Counterfeit Drugs

The Built-in Protections Of The U.S. Pharma Supply Chain

Last week we learned that 11 people were charged with the record-breaking $75 Million drug heist from the Eli Lilly warehouse in Enfield, Connecticut back in March of 2010 (see the excellent article by Jay Weaver in the Miami Herald, including a copy of one of the multiple indictments).  Importantly, all of the stolen drugs from the Lilly warehouse were apparently recovered before they could be re-introduced into the legitimate supply chain.  But this investigation and the charges go well beyond the infamous Lilly warehouse theft.  They include other pharmaceutical, liquor, cigarette and cell phone cargo thefts around the country, allegedly perpetrated by members of the same criminal organization.  Cracking this organization could end up disrupting the most prolific source of cargo theft in the United States over the last five years.

Congratulations are due to the law enforcement organizations who contributed to the investigation and to bringing the charges.  They include DEA, ATF, FBI, U.S. Attorney of Florida, Miami-Dade Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol, U.S. Attorney of Illinois and U.S. Attorney of New Jersey.

This episode highlights one of the things I call the built-in protections of the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain—the things that, combined, result in the U.S. having the safest supply chain in the world.  In this case, it is strong and cooperative law enforcement organizations.  While far from perfect, would you trade our system of justice, including law enforcement, with that of any other country in the world?  I don’t think you would (unless you’re one of the Villa brothers or their associates!).

But what are the other components that result in the safest drug supply chain in the world?  It’s certainly doesn’t occur by accident, so what are the built-in protections? Continue reading The Built-in Protections Of The U.S. Pharma Supply Chain

InBrief: ePedigree Models and Points of Failure

Over the last year in GS1, in many of the members of the U.S. pharma supply chain and even in the FDA, the focus has turned to the analysis and discussion of three classes of electronic pedigree models:

  • Fully Centralized,
  • Semi-Centralized, and
  • Fully Distributed.

I’ve discussed some of the pros and cons of these models here in RxTrace too (see “The Viability of Global Track & Trace Models”, “Should Regulations Dictate Technology?”, and “Could This Be Your Future Track & Trace/ePedigree Exchange Solution?”).

One of the characteristics included in many of these discussions is the “points of failure” of each model.  For example, I’ve heard it said several times that the Fully Centralized model suffers from a “single point of failure”, with the implication being that Fully Distributed models do not have this problem.  In fact, this is incorrect and in reality, both the Fully and Semi-Centralized models are much less likely to fail than models that fall within the Fully Distributed category when “failure” is defined as not being able to provide an ePedigree on demand in any given instance.


Wikipedia has a pretty good article on Reliability Engineering so I’ll spare you the background of the discipline that studies points of failure.  The mistake people sometimes make Continue reading InBrief: ePedigree Models and Points of Failure

What If RxTEC Isn’t Adopted?

I did not participate in the development of the Pharmaceutical Traceability Enhancement Code (RxTEC), a proposed Congressional bill that was created by the industry lobbying group known as the Pharmaceutical Distribution Security Alliance (PDSA).  In fact, while I was aware that a group had been formed last year I wasn’t aware that they were working on drafting an actual proposed bill until their discussion draft (dated February 27, 2012) appeared on the internet about 10 days ago.  I first saw it on Ed Silverman’s Pharmalot blog.

I also saw a presentation by one of the members of the PDSA last week that touched on the RxTEC proposal.  It was characterized as a “stepping-stone” to full traceability in the U.S. supply chain someday down the road.  In other words, the PDSA apparently means that their RxTEC proposal isn’t the final destination but it is only the first step toward that ideal.  At least, that’s how I interpreted that “stepping-stone” comment.


Now this is a concept that is familiar to me.  In fact, as an idea stripped of all of the RxTEC-specific details, it is identical to the idea beneath the approach I proposed in a pair of RxTrace essays last May and June called “Plateaus of Pharma Supply Chain Security” and “SNI’s Are Not Enough In a Plateau-Based Supply Chain Security Approach”.

This single underlying idea originates, on both accounts, from the fact that the amount of illegitimate activities within the U.S. supply chain is really quite small compared with the rest of the world (see my essay, “Illegitimate Drugs In The U.S. Supply Chain: Needle In A Haystack”), and to reduce it further will take Continue reading What If RxTEC Isn’t Adopted?

How Counterfeit Avastin Penetrated the U.S. Supply Chain

Counterfeit Avastin

The internet lit up last week when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted an announcement that they are aware of counterfeit Avastin in the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain (see “Counterfeit Version of Avastin in U.S. Distribution” on the FDA website and Genentech’s announcement).

I found out about it when I received notice of Dr. Adam Fein’s (PhD) excellent blog posting “Greedy Physicians Invite Fake Avastin Into the Supply Chain” on his DrugChannels.net blog, but multiple national news agencies picked the story up and many articles were written about it.  Most simply reflected the contents in the FDA’s announcement.

But at least one news source seemed to do some additional investigating.  Bill Berkrot and John Acher of Reuters published the excellent article “Fake Avastin’s path to U.S. traced to Egypt” on Thursday.  In the article they provide a little more background on the path the drugs allegedly took before apparently arriving on the shelves of U.S. physicians and potentially in the bodies of unsuspecting U.S. patients.

And Pharmaceutical Commerce Online reports that Avastin isn’t the only incident of recent counterfeit injectable cancer drugs making it into the U.S. market that the FDA is currently investigating.


Now keep in mind, this is only investigative journalism so far, and while the information source listed in the Reuters article is the Danish Medicines Agency, criminal investigators may already know more than this and in the end, some or all of the contents of the Reuters article may eventually be found to be untrue.  Whether ultimately true or not Continue reading How Counterfeit Avastin Penetrated the U.S. Supply Chain

Why NOW Is The Time To Move Away From Linear Barcodes

Linear barcodes have served us well for almost half a century, but NOW is the time to move on to something else in the global pharmaceutical supply chain.  I think most people already agree with that but I’m not sure everyone fully appreciates exactly why that is.  It’s important to fully understand the reason why so that your resolution to move away from linear barcodes is strong and you won’t drag your feet or look back.  So let me show you.


No matter what you might think is going to happen to ePedigree or track & trace regulations going forward, more and more governments around the world are concluding that legitimate pharmaceuticals should come with unique identifiers—serial numbers—attached to them by the manufacturers and repackagers.

Serialization is upon us and I believe that in 10 years the ongoing benefits from it around the globe will significantly exceed the ongoing costs.  Whether you agree to the benefits or not you certainly must accede to the fact that Continue reading Why NOW Is The Time To Move Away From Linear Barcodes

STEP #1: Raise Penalties For Drug Crimes To Reflect The Widespread Harm They Can Inflict

Last Thursday a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and Representatives jointly introduced a bicameral bill that would significantly increase the criminal penalties for drug counterfeiting to as much as 20 years in prison, as reported by Phil Taylor in SecuringPharma (see the article for the details).  The house bill is called H. R. 3468, The Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act.  The group of legislators include U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representatives Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Linda Sánchez (D-CA).  Not surprisingly the responses from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and Pfizer were swift and supportive.

Raising the penalties for counterfeiting drugs to the point where they adequately reflect the widespread harm they can cause the public is a very good thing.  It should have the effect of making people think twice about selling counterfeit drugs to Americans through the internet or attempting to introduce them into the legitimate supply chain (brick-and-mortar and legitimate internet pharmacies).  It may even cause more people in the legitimate supply chain to Continue reading STEP #1: Raise Penalties For Drug Crimes To Reflect The Widespread Harm They Can Inflict

Illegitimate Drugs In The U.S. Supply Chain: Needle In A Haystack

West-African countries have been under attack by drug counterfeiting criminals for decades with little resistance until the last one.  The result, in 2002 Mohammed Yaro Budah, then president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, estimated that 70% of the drugs in Nigeria were fake or substandard.  That’s an incredible figure, but starting around that time the Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) under the direction of Professor Dora Akunyili began fighting back.

Initially they focused on inspecting drug imports at the Nigerian ports and airports and they were able to bring the percentage of fake or substandard drugs to come down considerably.  More recently they have begun employing a number of Raman Spectroscopy-based devices called TruScan (recently acquired by Thermo Scientific) to inspect drugs and anti-viral medicines being sold in pharmacies during “unscheduled” visits.

Even more recently, a number of pharma manufacturers have begun to add low cost scratch-off stickers to the drugs sold in Nigeria that cover a random number that can be scratched off and checked for authenticity by patients and healthcare professionals using SMS text message-based technology from Sproxil.  The service was launched in 2010 on a single product but that number is growing quickly as a number of large U.S.-based drug companies add the scratch-off stickers to their productsThe service is sponsored by NAFDAC.


That is, would these technologies help to reduce the number of illegitimate drugs in the U.S. supply chain? I believe that the answer is Continue reading Illegitimate Drugs In The U.S. Supply Chain: Needle In A Haystack