New Coding System Could Help Battle Against Counterfeit Medicines

The counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals is growing in both scope and impact, and now manufacturers and regulators alike are searching for more sophisticated traceability systems.

One "breakthrough approach" currently in development will allow manufacturers to label their products with a two-dimensional dot-matrix that is linked to an online database. GB Innomech, the company developing the new coding system, says this new approach is low-cost and effective:

The codes can be printed or laser etched onto products, applied to virtually any substrate and can even be added onto the surface of pharmaceutical capsules or coated tablets. Matrix codes can be as small as 2 mm by 2 mm holding the code for up to 10 billion numbers. The codes can be read by widely available readers or in many cases from a picture taken with even the simplest camera phone, making them ideal in the battle against counterfeit medicines.

For example, a doctor in remotest Africa about to dispense a treatment course for malaria could take a picture of the product packaging code, send it by SMS to a centralized online database and within seconds have an auto-response to confirm the validity of the product and be sure he/she is not dispensing an ineffective or even potentially fatal counterfeit product.

According to the U.S.-based Center for Medicines in the Public Interest, counterfeit drug sales will reach $75 billion globally in 2010 that's an increase of more than 90 percent from just five years ago. 2005.

Back in 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized that counterfeit medical products are a major health risk for all communities and responded with the creation of a global coalition of stakeholders called IMPACT (International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce).

IMPACT is a partnership comprised of all the major anti-counterfeiting players, including international organizations, non-governmental organizations, enforcement agencies, pharmaceutical manufacturers associations and drug and regulatory authorities. Its goal is to build coordinated networks across and between countries so that the production, trading and selling of fake medicines around the globe can be halted.

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