Counterfeit drugs hurt every pharmaceutical company in the industry. However, there are many things that companies can and should do to stem the tide of fake medicines that continue to fill black markets all over the world.
Here are seven strategies that every pharmaceutical should be using to combat counterfeit drugs.
1. Aggressive Litigation
Many companies overlook the power that litigation can have to stop counterfeiters. While lawsuits may not work to stop the criminals directly involved in the illicit counterfeit drug industry, they can effectively close markets and disrupt their supply chains.
Pharmaceutical companies can aggressively protect their IP (Intellectual Property) by suing anyone profiting off counterfeit versions of their drugs. This includes filing lawsuits against marketplaces, problematic actors in your supply chain, and any other business that is profiting from direct or indirect aid to counterfeiters.
2. Consumer Education and Outreach
There are two sides to the counterfeit drug market. Many of these strategies tackle the supply side of the market. However, it’s also important to shrink the demand for counterfeit drugs.
Many consumers are unwittingly helping these criminal enterprises because they are only shopping based on price and are unaware that they are buying counterfeit drugs.
Consumer education and outreach can help dramatically reduce demand for fake medications. Consumers need to better understand the risks they are facing and how counterfeit drugs support organized crime.
Consumers also need to learn how to spot counterfeit medications.
3. Monitor and Audit Supply Chain
Unfortunately, many counterfeiters start by compromising parts of legitimate pharmaceutical companies’ supply chains. They steal IP and divert ingredients.
Companies need to carefully monitor and audit their supply chain to ensure that their suppliers are not also supplying counterfeiters.
You should have a team of people inside your company who are in charge of monitoring and investigating issues with the supply chain. Outside accountants and investigators may also be needed if your internal team discovers irregularities.
4. Proactively Work with Regulators and Law Enforcement
While every pharmaceutical company is willing to cooperate with law enforcement when asked, more companies need to be proactive in reaching out to regulators and law enforcement for help with counterfeiting.
The more data companies can supply both regulator and law enforcement about counterfeit products, methods, and supply chain issues, the easier it will be for these institutions to prevent future counterfeiting operations from getting established in the first place.
Counterfeit drugs are a complex problem that can only be solved with public-private partnerships.
5. Comply with Product Serialization
One of the easiest strategies to stop counterfeiting is to fully comply with all serialization regulations in all markets where your company operates.
Global Track and Trace regulations and the Drug Supply Chain Security Act are designed to not only protect patients, but also to make counterfeiting medications much harder.
The better your business is at complying with serialization regulations, the fewer counterfeit drugs there will be on the market.
6. Create Design Elements that Make Counterfeiting Harder
In addition to the measures required by serialization regulations, companies should be designing packaging elements that make counterfeiting more difficult. Drug counterfeiters operate like predators. They have narrow margins and succeed by exploiting weaknesses. If something is too difficult or expensive to copy, they will move on to an easier target.
In addition to Barcodes and RFID (Radio-frequency identification) tags, companies should use packaging elements like holographs and other unique identifiers.
7. Adopt New Security Technologies
You can be sure that criminals are always looking to gain an advantage by using the latest technology. Pharmaceutical companies have a responsibility to also use technology to keep supply chains secure.
One of the most promising anti-counterfeiting technologies is Blockchain. Adapting Blockchain to help trace, verify, and secure your supply chain and inventory will lock out many counterfeiters.
In addition to the Serial Number and GTIN (Global Trade Item Number), other countries are implementing, Russia is implementing a Crypto Code and Crypto Key technology. This will add an extra layer of protection on their supply chain.
In 2020 we have a technology available that will use your existing or new printed Barcode to create a unique fingerprint of each item. This technology is used to add an Authentication process to the supply chain. With traditional methods the counterfeiters just print the same information with the serial number and encoded data inside the 2D Data Matrix and they have a fake exact copy of the original item.
With the Authentication technology the system will capture a high-quality image to capture the imperfections on the Barcode known as Noise. This Noise is produced by vibration, humidity, printing quality and other factors. An algorithm is processes to create the fingerprint of each item. With this solution you will be able to identify an Authentic from a Suspicious or Fake Item that have printed the same exact information. This Noise produced will make the two items with the same printed information, unique from each other at the micro imperfections’ levels. This technology can be applied to any existing Barcode.
In conclusion, the implementation and action steps formed taking into consideration these 7 factors can help pharmaceutical companies combat more effectively counterfeit drugs. If you want any more in-depth details concerning any of these 7 factors and how you can implement them please feel free to reach out.