April 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
We are hearing more and more about the pharmaceutical industry using holograms for better anti-counterfeiting protection. According to a recent article put forth by The International Hologram Manufacturers’ Assn., the World Health Organization has estimated that annual earnings from the global sales of counterfeit and substandard medicines exceed $32 billion. This pushes the pharmaceutical industry to fight even harder against counterfeits.
Brands are not only using the holograms as a flashy point-of-sale, but they are going a step further providing authentication through the use of holograms as well as putting forth track-and-trace systems. These systems trace the product from its source as well as where it has been and where it is going to prove that the medication or product is authentic. This initiative requires all registered medicines, OTC pharmaceuticals, and traditional medicines to carry a uniquely numbered label built around a hologram.
The article makes a great point that all brands should consider:
Pharmaceutical companies and organizations involved in successful anti-counterfeiting efforts also recognize that it should not be the sole responsibility of the consumer to examine a hologram to check that the product is genuine. Rather than rely on untrained members of the public to identify counterfeits, it must be the primary responsibility of manufacturers and the enforcement agencies to ensure that fake pharmaceuticals should not be able to enter the legitimate supply chain in the first place.
A consumer should be able to go to their local pharmacy or drug store and trust that their Colgate toothpaste or diabetic medication is legitimate. In America, there are many that have that luxury, but in other countries, that just isn’t the case. Brands should do all that they can to protect the consumer and pharmacies should take the necessary precautions to make sure that their suppliers are trustworthy sources of medication. As a consumer, the best you can do is buy from a trusted pharmacy. Do not buy medication or supplements online unless you are sure it is an authorized reseller of the brand.
December 14, 2010 § Leave a comment
In Africa, counterfeit prescription drugs are a colossal problem that is growing. Not only are the consumers in need of malaria drugs being duped, but doctors and medical buyers are as well. Luckily mPedigree Network, a nonprofit based in Ghana who advocates for development strategies to fight counterfeiting, has teamed up with Hewlett Packard (HP) to bring a new anti-counterfeiting program to Ghana and Nigeria.
As seen in the image above, the HP and mPedigree Network program requires a consumer to scratch off a label on their prescription bottle to reveal a verification code. This code can then be texted to a designated phone number for verification. mPedigree Network works with the pharmaceutical companies to insure that each prescription has its own unique code. HP’s secure “cloud” verifies that the medication is authentic and a text message is sent back to the consumer stating whether or not the prescription is authentic.
According to the World Health Organization, 10% of drugs globally are counterfeit and in developing countries as much as 25% of the drug market is counterfeit. Eliminating counterfeit drugs could save over 700,000 lives a year. In a recent interview with mPedigree Network Founder, Bright Simmons, he states that he has seen estimates that up to 60% of the legitimate supply chain of medicine in West Africa has been compromised. Shocking statistics for countries that need such medications the most.
Since mobile phones are very common in Ghana and Nigeria, this program will hopefully put a huge damper in the counterfeit drug industry. Best of all, it’s free.
November 20, 2009 § Leave a comment
It was banner week for a global coalition combating the sale of sham pharmaceuticals on the Internet. A group of agencies from 24 countries came together for five days in “Operation Pangea II,” an effort to curb web sales of counterfeit and illicit medicines that resulted in several arrests and the seizure of thousands of harmful products.
The weeklong operation, which began on November 16th, dismantled 72 websites, confiscated 167,000 illicit and counterfeit pills, and left 22 individuals under investigation in its wake, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) press release.
The domestic team was a veritable acronym stew of U.S. organizations, an alphabet-agency soup, with contributions from the FDA, the DEA, ICE, USPIS (Postal Inspection Service), and the CBP (Customs and Border Protection).
On the international side, under the larger umbrella of INTERPOL and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) nimbly-titled International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT, inviting the question: what comes first the underlying org or the clever acronym), law enforcement agencies kicked down firewalls and crammed flash bangs into the inboxes of suspected peddlers.
The effort targeted the channels of sale and distribution for black market digital pill pushing. The week began with a group web surf, trolling for dodgy sites that sold the bitter pills, and identified 751 separate locations that were engaged in illegal activity. The USPIS and the Universal Postal Union (UPU) shook the contents of more than16,000 packages and turned up thousands of antibiotics, steroids, diet pills, lifestyle drugs – those that treat baldness, ED, wrinkles or acne – and others.
“Consumers seeking a better price or wanting to buy drugs without a prescription often do not know that the drugs they order through the Internet are often manufactured in inferior facilities, with substandard or dangerous ingredients, and with a high likelihood that they will not perform as expected, or worse, will cause harm,” said John Morton, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE.
Put a tad more bluntly: when you hustle around dodgy sites looking for cheap deals, you most certainly get what you pay for.
Odds are the bunk pills on these sites weren’t manufactured in the most rigorously sterile of settings. The mixing flasks likely carried a little less, if any, of the active ingredient you had hoped to get, or in the worst possible scenario, that you needed. The Petri dishes were caked with a little grime, and though a little fungus may have worked for Alexander Fleming and his discoveryof penicillin, in the remaining history of positive medical developments, the presence of mold isn’t such a good thing.
In the murk of the digital world, it’s easy to behave like deep-sea creatures snapping at the brightest stimuli. Flashy banner ads touting the lowest possible prices for prescription pills make it easy to lose sight of the nefarious nature of a transaction that, were it to occur in the brick and mortar realm, would involve crumpled brown bags passed in still running cars while both parties glance over their shoulders.
Operation Pangea II is an exemplar for future efforts to fight the fake trade. And while multi-pronged, cooperative initiatives yield fantastic results, those with the greatest power to wipe out this epidemic are the would-be purchasers.
Swim to the surface and buy responsibly.
Read the full story.
July 22, 2009 § Leave a comment
The efforts of a lone citizen who identified a sham anti-malarial drug distributed in Ghana have resulted in a country-wide seizure of the bogus pills and will likely save thousands of lives. The drug sold as Novartis Coartem was revealed to be fake through testing at sites developed and maintained by the USAID-supported Drug Quality and Information program where it was shown to contain none of the active ingredient necessary to treat malaria. Since the drugs were identified as frauds, the Ghana Foods and Drug Board has begun to warn those potentially using the impostor medicine and initiated a sweeping seizure of the life-threatening pills from retailers and wholesalers.
This is a compelling example of how an alert individual working with an agency can affect great change. It’s a call for further support: we need to champion these intersections of education and reliable infrastructure so they can continue to combat the presence of life threatening mock medicine and other counterfeit goods. We are inspired by all those involved in this life-saving confiscation and by the individuals and organizations who fight to deter the purveyors of fakes.
Read the full story.
FDA drafts guidance for the use of physical-chemical identifiers in pharmaceuticals to make it tougher for counterfeiters
July 14, 2009 § Leave a comment
Inks and Pigments and Flavors, oh my! A bit of a softball opening, sure, but the implications of the FDA’s recently circulated draft guidance on the use of these identifiers to help staunch the flow of bogus drugs into the marketplace are anything but. This set of recommendations has the potential to throttle the counterfeiters who sell damaging knockoffs. By including security measures that help determine whether a given drug is authentic or not, pharmaceutical companies can provide an additional layer of protection for their customers.
The industry term for these deterrents is physical-chemical identifiers (PCID). In addition to those mentioned above, the FDA’s guidance suggests that certain PCIDs may be used as “molecular tags” to identify a drug as legitimate. The equipment to test for the presence of this type of PCIDs would be given exclusively to the drug wholesalers and pharmacists. The FDA feels that the chance any complicating factors could result from adding these trace elements to the drugs is reduced as the potential components for the PCIDs are already used in other products and have established safety profiles.
This is an exciting development.
Still, whatever the ‘flavor’ used in these PCIDs, that the sham artists may be undone by a few proposed additives when they infamously add all sorts of chemicals and heavy metals to make their fake pills is an irony that we find most sweet.
Read the entire story.
August 11, 2008 § Leave a comment
If you have recently received the following prescriptions from The Medicine Shoppe pharmacies at 8035A Liberty Road and 5900 Reisterstown Road, the FDA strongly advises contacting your physician immediately for a new prescription.
The medications in question include:
• Lisinopril (20 milligrams)
• Guaifenesin/Dextromethorphan (600 mg and 1000 mg)
• Gabapentin (100 mg, 300 mg and 400 mg)
• Metoprolol (50 mg)
• Nifedipine (30 mg)
• Diclofenac Sodium (30 mg)
• Glucophage (500 mg Extended Release)
• Glucovance (125 mg and 500 mg)
• Glipizide/Metformin (2.50 mg/250 mg)
• Furosemide (20 mg)
• Tamoxifen Citrate (10 mg)
• Metformin HCl ER (500 mg)
• Calcitrol (0.25 micrograms)
A statement issued by the FDA relays serious concern because a number of the pharmaceuticals “are for serious diseases and could have an adverse effect on treatment.”
Please call the FDA at 800-521-5783 for more information on how to dispose of these medications.