Can you say for sure that the medication you take has all the ingredients it claims to have? How would you feel if you knew that the medication you were taking was, in fact, harmful to your health because it contained undisclosed ingredients?
In Africa, the domestic pharmaceutical market is growing quickly. This creates new opportunities and challenges for the continent, currently, only 37 out of 54 African states have some level of pharmaceutical production. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, 42% of detected cases of substandard or falsified pharmaceuticals occurred in Africa. The latest studies show that substandard and counterfeit anti-malarial drugs contributed to an additional 72,000 to 267,000 deaths in sub-Saharan Africa annually. Counterfeiters find Africa an easier target because it has not developed the armoury of responses seen in other parts of the world, including supply chain regulation, track-and-trace technology and enforcement regimes. Corruption adds another layer of complexity. In many cases, public officials are bypassed as the counterfeits reach retailers unhindered.
Fake drugs come in a variety of different forms, either as sub-standard drugs or counterfeit drugs which are deliberately falsified, the results of taking fake drugs can have a variety of effects. While the fight against counterfeit and substandard drugs will continue, it is also becoming easier to forge the drugs and the packaging with the increased commercial use of the internet to provide both branded and generic drugs. Solving this scourge could lie in the ability to trace the products from factory to consumer. This would ensure that the pharma company would be able to identify if a product is being counterfeited or “lost” on its delivery route. The correct traceability solutions could even identify or pinpoint the location of the crime syndicates point of operation, assisting authorities to be able to locate and arrest the main players. Pharmaceutical companies would need to rid themselves of counterfeiting opportunities through solutions that could keep their products on the radar throughout the distribution process. This shift in thinking has worked for European, Asia, and American distribution channels and can work for Africa.
Some important facts:
- Product diversion and black-marketing significantly impact a company’s brand strength, total revenue and shareholder value.
- Should the product integrity be violated, it can be a public safety issue, thereby placing the manufacturer at risk.
- Trade in fake medicines is growing internationally.
- Companies are looking toward technology in order to change the way track and trace solutions are being deployed and managed.
Solutions to help the consumer differentiate between the authentic product and the fake product are available and must be some sort of mark or identifier on the product, this is either a 2D barcode inkjet printed directly onto the product’s packaging, which can be scanned by either a barcode scanner for the retailer or a barcode scanning application on smartphones for the consumer, or the use of invisible ink or inks which contains trace elements. These barcodes are being adopted as the standard for serialized numbering schemes. In general, the 2D codes could contain any information required including expiry dates, date of manufacture and product numbers but we could take this a step further and make the code more secure by extending the capability of the 2D code by adding a second encrypted layer of information which is hidden and invisible to the standard 2D code reader but can be accessed by legitimate pharmaceutical manufacturer personnel. This is a patented digital authentication technology called PeltaTM, consumers can use the PeltaTM application to scan the code and see whether the product is fake or original without revealing the covert code. The invisible ink is only visible when placed under a UV light, using this method means that counterfeiters may be able to copy the packaging but they wouldn’t be able to copy this security feature, or the case of inks with trace elements, when the ink is printed it appears black but when scanned the trace elements become visible, this security feature is very effective as the mark can’t be copied.
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