Barring the way of fake drugs

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SummaryIndia is the third-largest drug producer globally by volume and 14th by value, with an estimated 5,000 production lines.

It has coded over 20 crore packages of medicine for consumers to verify by SMS.

Although there are several different programmes running globally, there is still a need to do a lot more with a proper anti-counterfeiting strategy comprising government, legislation, drug companies, solutions providers and consumers. Manoj Kochar, president, Hologram Manufacturers Association of India (HOMAI) says, “First of all, we need to understand that serialisation technologies such as barcode will never provide authentication of a product. Serialised numbers are a visible feature and therefore may be altered, distorted or deleted by the fraudsters.” He says that the track-and-trace technologies have to work in tandem with a dedicated anti-counterfeiting technology like security hologram to fight the counterfeiters effectively.

Secondly, pharmaceutical packaging require multiple levels of authentication. Currently, pharmaceutical brand owners are facing problem of counterfeiting in forms of pilfering, tampering, diversion, sub-standards drugs, and look-alikes. Hence, bar-coding alone will not solve all these problems, he adds.

These objections are not valid, though, according to PharmaSecure’s Kar. “It’s a randomly generated code, and so cannot be duplicated,” he says. Another method of duplication could be where the counterfeiter provides an alternate phone number to send the messages to. “While in theory that could work, in practice it will not. The phone number can be traced. This method of counterfeiting is like setting up a formal system to conduct informal and illegal activities. It will not work,” he adds.

The value of each technology can be enhanced by using several different complementing technologies. Every authentication solution would involve the use of a multi-level technology which need to have overt (verification by human eye), covert (verification by specified tool/ device) and forensic (verification by expert with advanced tools in a laboratory) technology.

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