This week, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and
Associations (EFPIA) launched a two-month pilot project in Sweden designed to test a serialization and verification system in pharmacies that would fight counterfeit drugs. Individual prescription drug packages will be serialized using a data matrix (or 2-D barcode), and pharmacists will verify the legitimacy of each packet before dispensing to consumers by scanning the data matrix. Suspect drug packages, such as those reported as previously dispensed, will trigger an alert to the pharmacist. The pilot involves 25 retail pharmacies and will monitor 100,000 products in Sweden’s retail pharmacy chain Apoteket AB and local wholesalers Tamro and KD.
Brian Ager, director general of EFPIA, said the project was an important contribution in the fight against counterfeit drugs in the supply chain. “Individual product verification will not provide a complete solution to the challenge of counterfeit medicines. Nevertheless, as part of a package of measures, this type of end-to end verification system will make a significant contribution to product security and reinforce patient confidence in the legitimate supply chain.”
The pilot project was designed by EFPIA in response to the European Commission’s proposal for a mass serialization of medicinal products to increase supply-chain security against counterfeit drugs. The organization hopes the project can help develop a cost-effective, harmonized, and interoperable system across the European Union, reduce the risk of incompatible national systems, and help standardize product verification within the EU, according to an EFPIA press release.
In other anticounterfeiting news, packaging and printing services provider Catalent (Somerset, NJ) announced this week the launch of its DigiTrack digital watermarking technology. The technology adds a covert watermark to packaging by embedding an imperceptible pattern directly into existing package graphics. The watermark and encrypted code cannot be seen by the naked eye, but can be identified by a web-enabled mobile phone, computer, hand-held reader, or other device through proprietary software. Authenticity of the package can then be verified and counterfeits can be discovered.
A recent article by PharmTech Europe highlights an example of anticounterfeiting technology that can be applied to the solid oral-dosage form. Microtag technology developed by ARmark Authentication Technologies (Glen Rock, PA) and Colorcon (West Point, PA) is able to carry information designated by the brand owner on the dosage form that demonstrates that a product is authentic. The tags are invisible to the naked eye and are identified using ARmark’s vision systems. The company’s hand-held, portable devices magnify the microtags and enable fast and accurate detection in the field without destroying the sample.
Additional examples of anticounterfeiting technologies can be found in the PharmTech article Drug Serialization and Supply-Chain Security.