Prevent counterfeit proliferation

A smartphone-readable QR code and scratch section concealing a unique secure ID codeTamper-evident labels, high-tech security inks, and secure codes are increasingly used to prevent the lucrative counterfeit pharmaceuticals and cosmetics trade. PACKAGING REVIEW delves into developments in robust turnkey real-time monitoring solutions and secure packaging methods.

Although the pharmaceutical industry has succeeded in providing access to safe medicines, counterfeiting poses a life-threatening risk to that success. What makes the threat urgent is the expected rise in chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart diseases.

About three years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that chronic diseases would account for 42 per cent of deaths in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030. To manage chronic illnesses, patients are required to take regular doses of treatments delivered using a medical device. The WHO approximates that about eight per cent of medical devices sold worldwide are fake. As chronic diseases rise, so does the risk of patients coming across fake medication or medical devices.

Fabienne Le Tadic, executive president for product & brand protection at SICPA SA says the need to act is urgent. ‘The technologies to do so are on the market. However, the true challenge lies elsewhere. Counterfeiting is like a virus that attacks healthy, successful brands and puts at risk the patients who rely on them for their health and well-being,’ she comments.

The cause and cure

Greed is a key driver of counterfeit products. For ruthless criminals, the financial incentive is high.

‘Various sources estimate fake medicines and medical devices to be worth between US$ 75 billion and US$200 billion per year,’ says Le Tadic. To fight the scourge, she says it is important to address the root cause, as focusing on technology only is not effective.

SICPA has identified a holistic approach, which is what makes the company unique.

‘The company provides an end-to-end risk-management process, which starts with a full security assessment identifying a company’s needs and risks. This is vital for identifying weak spots, especially since many health care companies work with various partners along their value chain. An example of this is outsourcing production to contract manufacturing organisations,’ she explains.

Combined with the high value of the products themselves, such complexities make pharmaceutical companies vulnerable to supply chain infiltration, product tampering and counterfeiting.

Beguiling anti-counterfeit solutions

SICPA recently partnered with ION Equity (ION), a corporate finance firm in Ireland, to launch an anti-counterfeiting solution for over-the-counter medications in Kenya. This was part of ION’s ‘Mydawa platform’, which aims to provide access to quality medicines, while offering robust, effective authentication.

The solution consists of two tamper-evident labels using high-tech security inks. One of the labels has a serialised smartphone-readable QR code and a scratch section concealing a unique secure ID code. To check if the medication is real or not, patients with smartphones can use the Mydawa app to read the QR code. Patients without a smartphone can scratch to reveal the concealed ID code, which they then SMS, or send via the platform’s website.

The solution offers traceability of a medication, proof of origin of the product and peace of mind for the patients buying the medication. The risk management process does not end with design. SICPA accompanies its clients through the phase of system deployment and all the way to performance monitoring.

‘We are especially attentive to the needs of our pharmaceutical clients. They operate under some of the strictest regulations in the world. Knowing their challenges and constraints, we aim to minimise the impact on the manufacturing process when deploying and operating our security solutions,’ says Le Tadic.

Real-time performance is vital in taking action against a counterfeiter. ‘Enforce your rights when you find someone trying to fake your product,’ she asserts.

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