A report by strategic consulting firm PwC, concludes that pharma companies that take counterfeit threats seriously, and are willing to spend money on new authentication technologies, stand to gain substantial benefits over their competitors.
Industry estimates put the trade in illicit pharma goods at around USD 200 billion per year, one of the most lucrative sectors in the global trade in fake goods. The implications of fake drugs, however, can be serious: the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 50 percent of drugs sold online are fraudulent and around 1 million people die or are seriously injured each year after taking fake drugs. Additional impacts for manufacturers in terms of reputational damage and reduced profits due to lost sales and liability claims mean that manufacturers risk many missed opportunities.
What can companies do to protect themselves?
Mass serialisation is one approach and is now mandatory under the European Union’s Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), which came into force in early 2019. The FMD requires manufacturers in all EU countries to assign unique identification numbers to the outer packaging of all prescription drugs and equip containers with tamperproof seals. Similar regulatory initiatives are underway in other countries, although there is no global standard being implemented.
PwC’s survey of pharma industry execs reveals dissatisfaction with current approaches to supply chain integrity and a growing desire for new anti-counterfeiting solutions that offer additional capabilities, such as data related to lot numbers, monitoring of trade flows and widespread detection capability using smartphone apps. There is increasing demand for advanced anti-counterfeiting systems that go beyond thwarting fake drugs and create value in other ways. The report also notes that manufacturers can avoid the high cost of developing anti-counterfeiting systems by handing off all or part of the work to external providers.