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We decided to dedicate this month's issue of PTE to a topic that affects all of our readers; the threat of counterfeit medicines.
We decided to dedicate this month's issue of PTE to a topic that affects all of our readers; the threat of counterfeit medicines. Every professional in our industry is painfully aware of the ever-growing threat that counterfeiting presents to patient safety and to business in general. Naturally governments, regulators and manufacturers are not taking the matter lightly; many drug manufacturers are investing in technologies and methods to protect the security of their products and their supply chains, whilst regulators are coming round to the idea that mandates may need to be enforced to reduce the impact of this illegal act.
Although we read a lot about counterfeit medicines, the cost to the pharmaceutical industry, and the technologies that are being developed to curb the threat, it appears that the implementation of anti-counterfeit solutions is taking place at an alarmingly slow rate. In fact, a recent survey conducted by PTE (www.pharmtech.com/counterfeitpoll) found that the majority of respondents (27%) admitted that their companies had yet to instate any anti-counterfeit solutions. There are a lot of reasons for this lag; implementing an anti-counterfeit solution is no easy undertaking. It requires investment and meticulous research, planning, execution and monitoring. Most importantly, however, it requires a harmonised framework that will support a supply chain that is global. This is still lacking and therefore naturally creates a great deal of uncertainty amongst the pharmaceutical industry. I am in no doubt that all of the necessary parties are tuned in to the fact that action must be taken to protect public safety and brand integrity and, given time, the use of anti-counterfeit solutions will become standard across all authentic pharmaceutical products. Until then, governments must also take responsibility for educating the public about the threat of counterfeit medications and the danger of purchasing medicines from an unauthorised source, i.e. the Internet. From my own personal experience in the UK, it appears that not enough is being done to educate the public about this important issue. In fact, I believe that a significant portion of the population remains completely unaware that "branded" prescription medicines sold online could be illegitimate and potentially harmful.
There is still of course a lot of work to be done and a holistic approach, involving industry, regulators, governments and the public on a global level, is necessary if the threat of counterfeit medications is to be minimised. This is no easy task and will take time but our industry is definitely taking steps in the right direction.
Fedra Pavlou, Editor-in-Chief