Counterfeit medications are medications that are sold expired, adulterated, or containing no active ingredient. Although estimates that describe the incidence of counterfeit medicines and vaccines vary, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute reported over 1500 pharma crimes in the United States last year alone.
Organizations like the Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organization have acknowledged the threat of counterfeit drugs, particularly in recent years. In the age of ecommerce, the problem has been exacerbated by an increase in unlicensed online vendors selling counterfeit over-the-counter and prescription medications to unwitting consumers.
Consumable medical devices, such as pregnancy tests or inhalers, are also the target of counterfeiters who produce fake products with substandard materials that compromise the products’ efficacy.
Enter SICPA, a global company that specializes in brand protection solutions that is helping companies in the pharmaceutical and consumable medical device industries protect their brands and ensure that the public is receiving safe, authenticated products.
“It’s amazing and quite sad to know how prevalent it is for the bad guys to go after drugs that are meant to save lives,” says Rich Einhorn, Vice President of SICPA. “The problem is not only pervasive, it’s growing.”
“Counterfeit drugs in developing countries are a well-known phenomenon, but many companies incorrectly believe they don’t need to worry if they’re not working in those developing markets,” he said. “Ensuring brand protection and product security makes companies and their products more attractive to potential buyers and investors, and also reduces potential harm to patients.”
SICPA helps their clients by first assessing their risk profiles and where they have the potential to lose control of their products in their supply chains. Then, they work to help clients develop a brand identity that integrates security features—like secure and optically variable inks—into the brand design.
“You have to be able to clearly communicate what an authentic product looks like,” explains Einhorn. “Reliable and consistent brand identity is a critical part of helping consumers authenticate real products.”
Additionally, SICPA will incorporate covert materials into packaging so that field authenticators, government inspectors or SICPA themselves can inspect and verify products. These covert materials are much more secure than more common security features such as microprint or serialization.
Einhorn stressed that companies should start building in protections very early – in the design phase if it’s a device or combination product; or, if it’s a drug, incorporating traceable elements during the formulation phase, providing a chemical fingerprint and protecting authenticity if and when the product is tested.
SICPA, which has been working in the health care space since 1996, implement their solutions around the globe including the United States, Mexico, Europe, China and Brazil with a focus on supply-chain infiltration, diversion, counterfeiting, and tampering. SICPA’s secure authentication solutions are also being deployed in many other industries worldwide, including fuels, electronics, banknotes, and food and beverage.
Abby Ballou is the managing editor of MedTech Boston. She has a B.A. and M.Phil in English literature from NYU and the CUNY Graduate Center, respectively. When she isn't writing and editing for MedTech Boston, Abby enjoys reading, rock climbing, watching classic movies and listening to opera.
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