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Counterfeit drugs: improving supply chain security to tackle the problem

Counterfeit drugs are a global problem and while many are calling for updated technology to improve supply chain security, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says a lack of information on counterfeit medicines is impeding its ability to monitor the system effectively.

According to EU customs officials, 118 per cent more counterfeit medicines were seized across the continent in 2008 than in 2007 and figures from the World Health Organization indicate up to 30 per cent of medicines in locations such as Africa and South-East Asia are counterfeit.

Addressing the problem of counterfeit drugs

Senior vice-president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) Ken Johnson noted that the alarming rate of counterfeit drugs being manufactured and sold poses a great challenge to a number of agencies.

"[We believe] that congress should continue to maintain – not weaken – FDA's relatively closed drug supply system and also ensure that CBP [Customs and Border Protection] and FDA have the resources to seize potentially dangerous and counterfeit products at our nation's borders," he said.

Alan Goldhammer, vice-president of PhRMA's scientific and regulatory affairs division, discussed possible solutions at the Global GS1 Healthcare conference.

Maintenance of a closed supply chain with the US, innovative packaging technologies, as well as testing out the benefits of approaches such as serialisation, were among the recommendations for addressing the problem of counterfeit drugs. 

Big benefits from better supply chain security

PA technology and innovation expert Steven Carden comments: "Supply chain security is absolutely vital for the pharma industry but the challenge (and cost) is great.

“But pharma companies are always complaining about the cost. They rarely value the upside of supply chain security, which improves the performance and efficiency of supply chains, targeted recalls and inventory management.

But even more valuable is that a secure supply chain provides a communications channel from manufacturer to pharmacist and patient that currently does not exist - what could the industry do with that?”

To find out how PA can help improve supply chain security to address the issue of counterfeit drugs, please contact us now.

George Botsakos
Life sciences
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