PharmaSecure Uses Mobile Device And ID Codes To Take On Counterfeit Drug Problem
By Jennifer Hicks.
Counterfeit drugs are a global problem. This week, counterfeit versions of Roche's cancer drug, Avastin were distributed in the United States. The cancer drug makes bank for Roche, about $6B a year.
This is part of a global trend in drug counterfeiting which has increased over the past decade - more than 1,700 incidents worldwide in 2011. As you might suspect, there aren't even reliable estimates on the value of the global counterfeit drug trade, some say it's in the tens of billions.
The Associated Press reports that counterfeiting is more prevalent today since pharmaceutical supply chains are stretching around the world. More than 80 percent of the active ingredients used in U.S. pharmaceuticals are manufactured overseas. In developing regions like Asia and Latin America, counterfeits are a growing concern, as many as 30 percent of the drugs sold there are fake and in India, that number is 20% according to the World Health Organization.
"The discovery of counterfeit Avastin in the U.S. was a shock to many, though not to those in the developing world where we've been combating fake drugs for years," said Nathan Sigworth, Founder and CEO of PharmaSecure.
"Eliminating counterfeit pharmaceuticals in the U.S. is going to take three things: first, legislation which would criminalize the use of counterfeit versions of trademarks and enhances penalties when counterfeit marks are used on drugs; second, expand the FDA's capacity to investigate counterfeits; and finally, pharmaceutical manufacturers have to implement effective track-and-trace systems to protect their supply chains and their consumers." - Nathan Sigworth, PharmaSecure
And this brings us to India. India has a booming pharmaceutical trade, around $12B and they have a lot to lose with counterfeit drugs - patients lives and the credibility of drug manufacturers. So, instead of waiting for things to get worse, India's government has been an early adopter of technology to help curb the spread of counterfeit drugs testing a number of technologies from 2D bar codes and QR codes to anti-counterfeiting and brand protection technologies.
Companies like PharmaSecure turned to a hybrid approach that uses ID codes along with the most ubiquitous technology out there today - the mobile phone. Through serialization, track and trace codes and mobile phone technology, they have come up with a highly scalable, easy to implement and deploy technology to authenticate drugs to help stop the flow of counterfeit drugs and ensure consumers are taking the real thing.
PharmaSecure codes being printed
Here is how it works: unique codes are printed for each product on the packaging. For consumers, the authenticity of the drug can be verified by sending a text to the number given. Drug manufacturers print the codes on the drug packaging and they can monitor the drug on its way out of the factory. Drugs are protected even while they are in transit.
PharmaSecure's technology - psID and psVerify - benefits consumers and drug companies alike. For pharmaceutical companies, it gives feedback data that helps them determine where and when drugs are authenticated which in turn, helps them understand their market. But more importantly, the consumer wins, because they can easily and quickly authenticate via the code and their mobile phone that the medicine they're taking is safe and effective.
"Successful track-and-trace solutions, like PharmaSecure's system of ID codes are already succeeding and protecting against counterfeit pharmaceuticals in India," adds Sigworth. "ID codes allow consumers to verify if medicines are authentic and not counterfeit."
Lupin's Tuberculosis medication
According to Alok Ghosh, President, Technical Operations, Lupin Ltd., quality and authentic products are no longer an exception, they are simply expected in today's increasingly demanding marketplace.
"It is imperative that regulators and companies work together to ensure they set up systems and process by adopting technologies that would ensure that authentic drugs reach the consumer," stated Ghosh.
"Lupin has always put quality first and focused on making sure the right drugs reach consumers," adds Ghosh. "This is why we were one of the first pharmaceutical companies to adopt and implement PharmaSecure's mobile authentication solutions."
With the implementation of PharmaSecure's solution, consumers can access the entire details of a drug by sending a code that's printed on Lupin drug packs through an SMS to a dedicated number. The company has implemented PharmaSecure's mobile authentication solution on all of their flagship brands and plans to extend it to the remainder of the Lupin brands in the near future.
PharmaSecure mobile verification solution
"Mobile authentication is a simple, yet powerful solution. Our consumers can confirm authenticity of any medicine in less than a minute," adds Ghosh. "This not only opens a new channel of communication for us to our consumers, but has also gone a long way in elevating the level of confidence they have in Lupin as a pharmaceutical market leader."
And now we come to scale. India. Mobile phones. Booming pharmaceutical industry. PharmaSecure's technology is highly scalable-in 2012 they predict they'll mark more than 1.3 billion packages with verifiable ID codes.
Because the technology is relatively inexpensive and easy to incorporate into a pharmaceutical company's existing production line and mobile phones are everywhere in the developing world, using texts to verify medicines is a solution that will benefit the most people in the fastest way possible. They have focused on making sure their technology will be easy to integrate into the manufacturing lines, ensuring higher adoptability.
Sigworth echos Ghosh's sentiment on adopting technology in this counterfeit drug battle. "If U.S. companies take the lead on establishing track-and-trace, rather than waiting for government mandates and regulations, they can protect their supply chains, save lives and alleviate concerns about fakes," adds Sigworth.
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