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Despite worries that industry is slow to adopt anticounterfeiting technologies, the 2006 Interphex program is rife with new methods for securing the supply chain.
Here's a frightening statistic: counterfeit drugs comprise more than 10% of the global pharmaceutical market, according to a Feb. 2006 fact sheet from the World Health Organization. And, the Centre for Medicines in the Public Interest estimates that US counterfeit drug sales will reach $75 billion by 2010 (which is 90% more than was sold in 2005).
Until FDA makes a federal mandate, though, it seems that companies will be slow to adopt radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to stem the rise (see this month's "In the Field" report). Critics say neither pharmaceutical companies nor pharmacies are willing to absorb the cost required to implement a system for RFID tagging of all drug products.
But regardless of whether FDA sets a standard for securing the pharmaceutical supply chain, it's clear from the schedule of this year's Interphex conference in New York that new anticounterfeiting technology is ripe and abundant.
Interphex added a new pavilion dedicated to RFID innovation and scheduled 15 speakers each day to showcase the latest anticounterfeiting packaging technologies on live conveyor belts. The conference planners also selected several anticounterfeiting-specific general sessions and workshops to spur supply chain security discussions on topics ranging from RFID implementation case studies to analysis of what FDA may expect of manufacturers for secured production distribution to identifying what challenges the industry must overcome to adopt RFID.
If industry is not 100% ready to take on the challenge of securing the supply chain at the moment, we're clearly making headway in terms of developing new techniques, explaining how they work, and brainstorming plans for implementation. We may still have mountains to climb before all drugs bear an RFID tag, but making information readily available will provide a good ground floor for building a more secure supply chain.
Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner is the managing editor of Pharmaceutical Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org