In a recent article, International Pharmaceutical Industry made the point that Serialization Improves Public Health. We agree with that, up to a point. The authors point out that drugs pass “…through a complex distribution network where [their] authenticity at every level cannot be checked due to the absence of data-sharing systems.” Later in in the article they say, “…in the end serialization will help pharmaceutical companies to ensure patient safety.” And, “…reliable serialization and labeling systems…can put an end to the very serious global trade in illegal drugs once and for all.”
At Systech, we believe that serialization mandates around the world will raise the bar on the ability of criminals to introduce counterfeit drugs into legitimate supply chains, but we do not believe it will likely “…put an end to the very serious global trade in illegal drugs once and for all.”
Pharma serialization mandates are necessarily and properly based on standardized approaches to serialization. That is, they require all companies to follow known standards for serial number application and related data management. That levels the playing field for legitimate trading partners but it also informs the counterfeiters well in advance exactly what their target is.
Odds are pretty good that more than one criminal enterprise out there has come up with more than one way to get around the protections intended by the technology mandates. Already some companies have found copies of their serialized 2D barcoded product on the market. The product was found—we hope all of it was found—but the criminals were not.
Fortunately, Systech has come up with a way for pharma companies to meet the regulatory mandate, truly protect against counterfeiting. The best part is, nothing beyond the mandated barcode needs to be added to the product or its package. And the barcode can be printed or applied by any means available. What our UniSecure™ product does is to capture the naturally occurring “fingerprint” that already exists on each package, and save it in a database. Later, when authenticity must be checked, a simple, everyday smartphone can be used to read the fingerprint on any package in the supply chain. If the two fingerprints match, the drug package is authentic. If they don’t match, you have a counterfeit, and the proper authorities can be notified.
What if a criminal just copies the barcode on a package, wouldn’t they copy the “fingerprint” too? No, in fact, it is impossible to copy the fingerprint on a package because, just like a human’s fingerprints, each package has a unique fingerprint that cannot be reproduced. In fact, if you attempt to copy the fingerprint of a given package, you will actually make it easier to detect.
What about the cost? Because nothing needs to be added to the package for fingerprinting to work—“fingerprints” are already on every package—the cost per unit is very low when compared with traditional brand protection technologies. You would be very surprised how low the overall cost is.
Yes, serialization can improve public health, but to really protect your brand from criminal activity, you need UniSecure.