I recently had the pleasure of attending the 5th Annual Pharma Anti-Counterfeiting & Serialisation 2016 conference at the Chelsea Bridge Hotel, London, UK. Joining a wide range of international pharmaceutical industry experts, we gathered to look at solutions for tackling the increasing problem of global counterfeit drugs.
The conference kicked off with a reminder of some truly sobering facts and figures highlighting the enormous human and economic impact of the counterfeit drugs trade. We’re all aware that counterfeiting has a huge economic impact, but the figures are stunning. Some estimates suggest that the counterfeit medications trade is actually a bigger business than illegal drug trafficking, costing companies and economies 100s of millions of dollars each year. Over and above this is the really shocking fact that more than one million people die every year as a direct result of counterfeit medicines. These statistics don’t even include the countless others impacted by adverse side effects, and drugs that contain contaminated, harmful, or inactive ingredients.
Anti-counterfeiting methods have come a long way in recent years though. Covert and overt security features, tracking, serialization and more, are widely used to protect pharmaceutical product integrity and identify counterfeits. But counterfeit operators are also becoming increasingly sophisticated in responding to these strategies, duplicating packaging, barcodes and seals to the point that it is almost impossible to determine what is genuine and what is fake.
So, the current move and regulations around serialization technologies can provide a good validation of the package, but there are many points along the way when packaging can be tampered with, and the chain can be disrupted. Ultimately, it comes down to one question, how do we know that the drug we consume is the genuine product?
This is where Consumer Physics added a powerful anti-counterfeiting solution to the mix – instant, affordable chemical analysis in a cell phone or palm sized device.
Imagine being able to actually validate a drug in real-time, wherever and whenever you need to. Unlike packaging, the unique chemical attributes of a drug are much more difficult to replicate. SCiO analyzes both the API and inactive carrier materials of a drug to confirm if it is genuine, fake or adulterated, enabling anyone to analyze drugs for verification in the field, at the port of entry, at the point of care, or at the point of dispensing.
‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’ – we made a big claim, and it takes a lot to astound the experts, but seeing is believing! I started the SCiO presentation at the conference by inviting an audience member to a blind test. The volunteer randomly selected one of 24 OTC medications while my back was turned. As each pill was scanned, I read out the results sent to my cellphone. Each scan produced an accurate identification of the type and brand of the selected pill. To add good measure, the spectral fingerprint was displayed to back it up with hard data. This short display caused a good deal of excitement. And, in addition to its impressive material analysis capabilities, SCiO’s small size, extreme affordability, and cloud capabilities generated a lot of interest. As a serious adjunct to rapid material analysis, conference attendees could also envision how using SCiO’s powerful cloud capabilities can enable their companies to get immediate counterfeit alerts, collect and analyze long and short term trends and data, and get a picture of all global activity.
Overall, the two day conference was enormously valuable, stimulating and enjoyable, particularly for making contact with other companies offering solutions, learning about on-going efforts, and hearing about individual company’s commitment to pursuing anti-counterfeit objectives.
The event provided a great opportunity for Consumer Physics to showcase our product and encourage dialogue across the pharma community. Added to this, discussions during the day – particularly in the breakout sessions, helped identify exciting areas for further research, development and collaboration. I’m looking forward to presenting even more exciting capabilities next year!