Anti-Counterfeiting in Medical Packaging

Medical packaging faces many challenges, and counterfeiting is one of the most prevalent. It’s something that causes various issues and results in a significant loss of money for big pharma every year. Thankfully, steps are being taken to combat this issue as anti-counterfeiting measures are put in place. The following guide will walk you through all the key things you need to know about anti-counterfeiting in medical packaging. 

What is anti-counterfeiting in pharma?

Counterfeit medicines are any medicine that’s deliberately and fraudulently mislabelled. This covers a full range of things: 

  • Drugs with incorrect labels
  • Drugs with incorrect expiry dates
  • Fake packaging for medicine
  • Medicine with the right ingredients but the wrong dosage is written on the packaging
  • Medicine that lacks the active ingredients

The list goes on, and counterfeit products are hard to distinguish from real ones. As such, this is where anti-counterfeiting comes in. Essentially, it refers to all the different methods and techniques used to help protect the supply chain of pharmaceutical goods. Strategies are put in place to help limit the number of counterfeit products on the market for consumers and patients to unwittingly purchase. 

Companies are working with law enforcement agencies to ensure that their products aren’t being copied, and that fake versions are not being distributed. There are many techniques in use, and serialisation is seen as one of the breakthrough methods to combat counterfeiting in medical packaging. 

What are the biggest issues in anti-counterfeiting?

The biggest issue in anti-counterfeiting is that there are simply so many counterfeit medicines for sale right now. The World Health Organisation claims that over 50% of drugs purchased online are counterfeits in some way. That’s a staggering figure, but it also provides us with another issue; the internet. 

Thanks to online technologies, it’s easier than ever for someone to sell counterfeit medicine online while posing as a legitimate pharmaceutical business. People are looking for convenience – they don’t want to visit their doctor, go through the steps to get a prescription, then head to the local pharmacy. Instead, they want to buy the medicine they need right away, which is why they turn their attention to the internet marketplace. With so many people out there distributing fake drugs online, it’s difficult for anti-counterfeiting measures to keep up with them.

Another issue is that technology makes it easier for people to create counterfeit medical products. This is why there are so many fake drugs on the market right now; they’re easy to make. Consumers and patients don’t know what to look for when deciding if something is real or not. So, more and more counterfeits enter the supply chain without being detected.  

Which is the biggest exporter of fake drugs?

Fake drugs can be manufactured anywhere in the world – and they can enter the supply chain at any point. The internet is now the most prevalent place to purchase fake medicine, but certain countries are guilty of providing more counterfeits than others. 

In fact, the biggest exporter of fake drugs is India. As a country, they have very lax laws and inspections in the pharma world. This makes it easy for fake drugs to be manufactured and exported to other countries, where they quickly enter the mainstream global supply chain. It’s been a severe issue in India for many years, yet it continues to be a problem to this day. 

What is serialisation?

Serialisation is an anti-counterfeiting method used to distinguish the real from the fake. It’s possibly the best tool to tackle this problem, and one of the easiest to implement. Products are all given unique serial numbers that lets them be traced all the way from the manufacturer to the patient. It’s not a method that will 100% eradicate counterfeiting in big pharma, but it’s definitely proved a valuable tool so far. 

How does serialisation work?

Effectively, a unique serial number is given to every product that’s produced by a manufacturer. These numbers are typically shown on the packaging labels as barcodes. This number contains a host of information about that particular product, this includes: 

  • Product origin
  • Product batch
  • Expiry date

More information is included, but the idea is that you manage and trace all of this data through the serial numbers. As a result, you can track a product as it moves from place to place and exchanges hands. This ensures that real items are making their way all the way to the patient – rather than disappearing somewhere along the supply chain. When you notice that a specific serial number has suddenly become inactive or hasn’t made its way to a patient, then this sounds the alarm bells. The good news is you’ll know where it stopped its original journey, which helps point the finger at potential counterfeiting being done. 

Of course, serialisation also helps distinguish fake products from real ones. If a drug doesn’t have a recognisable serial number, then it’s just a pure counterfeit. This method has helped catch out and limit the number of counterfeit products from circulating around the world. 

What is the future of pharmaceutical drug developments and the threats of fake drugs?

The threat of fake drugs will always be in big pharma. This industry is simply worth too much money for counterfeits to not be around. However, the future of drug developments will undoubtedly be built around the idea of anti-counterfeiting. 

Manufacturers are considering various options to help make real drugs more unique and harder to copy. More technology is being implemented to help track packaging and prevent the loss of genuine medicines through the supply chain. Fake drugs will continue to rise, but the number of anti-counterfeiting measures will increase with them. There will also be an emphasis on informing the public about counterfeit drugs as well. By understanding what to look for, this can help cut down on the number of people who unknowingly purchase fake drugs online. 

Counterfeits are definitely one of the most prominent and challenging problems in big pharma. As a consequence, you can expect to see a future that’s dedicated to combating this issue and focusing on anti-counterfeiting to help protect patients.