Do your medications come from a registered pharmacy? You could be ordering counterfeit medication online without realizing it: the market for counterfeit medicine topped $75 billion last year. New pharma track and trace protocols are making it easier for consumers to verify that their medications are authentic: medical packaging materials now feature bar codes and can be traced at every point in the supply chain. Pharmacies are offering consumer education to their clientele: if you are looking for a specific medication, go to a doctor’s office instead of ordering it online.
What consumers may not realize is that counterfeit medicine can damage their health. Many of these fake medications are manufactured in China and India, and consumers who are looking for a discount may be ingesting medication that does not share any ingredients with the medication they wanted to order. Our government recently signed the Drug Quality and Security Act into law: packaging services for medication needs to include bar codes and a “pedigree” that is easily traceable. Where did my medication come from? Who made it and who can verify that it is real? The pharmaceutical supply chain needs to be more transparent, lawmakers say.
Before your medication makes it to your pharmacy, it has to go through a long series of tests: often, it is tested against other similar medications, a process called “comparator sourcing.” Pharmaceutical companies are often reluctant to contribute medications to competitors’ comparator sourcing tests out of a fear of industrial sabotage, but companies need to test new medications extensively before they can be offered to the general public. Around the world, biotech companies can offer their shareholders low prices until their drug is picked up by a national or international market: it’s best to purchase biotech stock when the medicines are still being developed. After they go public, investors may be facing much higher prices per share.
Which medicines will pass clinical trials and comparator sourcing tests? Investors around the world wish that they knew. Pharmaceutical serialization experts around the world are working to make sure that new medications can easily be incorporated into the existing supply chain, but each country has differing regulations for medication approval. For example, you can go into any pharmacy in certain European countries and get a cough syrup with codeine. In America, medications that contain codeine require a prescription. The challenge for pharmaceutical packaging companies worldwide is to combat the counterfeit marketplace while remaining cognizant that countries have differing protocols for their medications.
Physicians who work in developing nations are, perhaps, the most concerned about new pharma track and trace technologies. They see so many counterfeit medications over the course of the year that they often have to deny care to their clients: it can be tremendously difficult to ensure the purity and veracity of the medications they receive. New tracking technology promises to streamline comparator sourcing trials as well as to minimize the likelihood of physicians receiving shipments of compromised medications in the field. In the next several years, consumers around the world should notice that their pharmacies have more intensive security protocols.
Security protocols are essential when it comes to recalling batches of medication: companies may wish to recall on the basis of sterility or possible bacterial contamination. There are regular reports online about medication recalls, and interested consumers can monitor national and local drug recalls. In general, pharmaceutical serialization will work to ensure that injury and death from contaminated or inauthentic medications remains at a minimum: if you think that you have taken contaminated medication, contact your doctor immediately. Hopefully, new tracking technology will subdue or eliminate the market for counterfeit drugs in every country around the world.