Crack Down on Counterfeiters

December 1, 2001
Kevin Gopal
Kevin Gopal

Kevin Gopal is Pharmaceutical Executive's international correspondent, covering pharma and regulatory issues around the word. He is also a political columnist for North West Business Insider, one of the UK's leading regional business magazines. He started his career as a journalist at SiYu, the UK's Chinese community magazine, before joining the PE staff.

Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-12-01-2001, Volume 0, Issue 0

York, UK-Pharma companies have failed to prevent product counterfeiting, and experts warn that the industry-wide security body has no coordinated approach to help.

York, UK-Pharma companies have failed to prevent product counterfeiting, and experts warn that the industry-wide security body has no coordinated approach to help.

Counterfeiting prevention specialist Joe Hancock of Biocode says, because pharma companies focus on business issues such as satisfying regulators and bringing new pro-ducts to market, they pay little attention to the problem. The World Health Organization estimates counterfeiting costs the industry $16 billion a year in lost revenue, or 7 percent of global sales.

Hancock points to China, India, Africa, Asia Pacific, and South America as centers for counterfeit trade. He says fake medicines have been found in 28 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. Of 751 cases, 25 percent are from industrialized countries, 65 percent from developing countries, and 10 percent are unknown.

All products are at risk, says Hancock. But lifestyle products that are sold in high volume, such as Viagra, and high-value drugs often unavailable in developing countries are particularly vulnerable.

Hancock says counterfeiting requires little or no capital. Manufacturing can be done in developing-world sweatshops, and modern print technology makes it easy to copy packaging. Most counterfeits look like the genuine product but contain little or no active ingredient. Even worse, they can contain toxic substances used to make the product appear similar to the genuine article.

Biocode uses immunoassay technology to covertly code genuine products and packaging items, sometimes in combination with overt technologies such as holograms. It can encode manufacturing site information, batch ID, and authenticity into products at the production facility.

It uses field test kits, including scanner pen systems, which can identify counterfeits, ascertain if a product is in the correct country, and investigate the medicine's source.

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