Counterfeiting of drugs and medicines has been a massive problem all over the world. Drug shortages, long and convoluted supply chains, and Internet pharmacies are a few contributing factors. According to FDA, a counterfeit medicine is a fake medicine which may be contaminated or contain the wrong or no active ingredient. It could have the right active ingredient but the wrong dose. According to a report published by World Health Organization, one in ten medical products circulating in the low- and middle-income countries are estimated to be either substandard or falsified, endangering the lives of millions.
The Pharmaceutical Security Institute has reported that between 2011 and 2015 the global incidence of drug counterfeiting has increased 51%, with 2015 seeing the highest levels of counterfeiting to date, a 38% increase when compared to 2014. The illicit drug supply industry holds an estimated value of $200 billion dollars, which is about 2% of the total industry revenue. Counterfeit medications not only take away the hard-earned income of patients, by having them pay for products that have little or no medical value, but they can also lead to unresolved health issues, sometimes even death.
How to Ascertain the Authenticity of Drugs?
A few quick and easy methods include:
check the seal and making sure it has not been tampered or damaged
check the packaging and making sure the font, spelling, and the color are accurate
be sure to double-check if there is a sudden dip in the price of the medicines
While the above listed points may serve as preliminary check points, it is absolutely essential for pharmaceutical companies and the government to make Drug Authentication System mandatory. There is a need to focus on the global drug supply chain and monitor its security. Verification methods may be incorporated at different points in the drug supply chain to ensure the integrity of the product.
The current methods for detecting counterfeit medicines are varied in nature and span from laboratory-based methods through SMS texting. Some of the categories of techniques to analyze pharmaceuticals includes:
visual inspection of product and packaging; tests for physical properties such as disintegration, reflectance spectroscopy, and refractive index
clinical tests including colorimetry and dissolution; chromatography
incorporating design elements into packaging such as bar codes, RFID tags and other detection elements like holographs to add layers of security to these already established technologies
Novel Technologies Helping to Ensure Drug Authenticity
While the above methods are helpful to ensure authenticity, it is also the need of the hour to take advantage of novel technologies. One such company that is excelling in this space is C2Sense. They are advancing sensing solutions for a healthier and safer world. AuraTM is C2Sense’s patented technology that enables the encoding and revealing of molecular information.
One of their products is AuthenTagsTM which aims to revolutionize brand protection and product packaging by providing counterfeit detection and product quality information. This is discretely printed onto or included in products and packaging. AuthenTags work well on products as small as a pill, may be mixed into inks or other liquids, and can be applied to glass, plastic, leather, metals, cardboard, and various other surfaces. AuthenTags serve as low cost, secure and accurate ‘signatures’ for counterfeit detection and product quality and may also be designed to react to problems encountered in the distribution chain (temperature change, oxygen sensing, and more). Upcoming technologies such as this are extremely important and helpful to mitigate the issue of counterfeit drugs and thereby control the serious public health issues.