U-NICA Jul 2, 2020 2:24:06 PM 10 min read

Protecting the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

One weak link can compromise the authenticity of a whole pharmaceutical supply chain. Learn how U-NICA helps stop counterfeiting in its tracks.

Every business must shoulder the weight of supply chain management, but the pharmaceutical industry faces perhaps the greatest responsibility of them all. Getting medical products where they need to go can mean life or death. Bigger problems arise when this supply chain is corrupted, allowing counterfeiters a way in. Then, pharmaceutical scams become a deadly black market.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has done a lot to highlight secure pharma’s weak links. Supply chain managers are under more pressure than ever to patch those leaks and secure their operations for patient protection. 

Why COVID-19 is a danger to the pharmaceutical industry

China is the world’s largest producer of pharmaceutical ingredients. It’s also one of the biggest hubs for fake medicines. This was a risky enough duality for global pharma pre-2019. Now that China is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, the counterfeiting connection has become a red alert.

Production of medicines (and every other kind of product) in China are slowing down; a situation that could rock the global pharma supply chain and drive patients and distributors to take desperate measures to obtain what seem like genuine pharmaceuticals. This makes COVID-19 a blessing for counterfeiters.

Heightened public health concerns combined with pharmaceutical shortages and reduced wages will make cheap medicines even more attractive to panicked buyers. A shaken supply chain is many times more vulnerable to criminal influence. Protecting patients from these threats takes manufacturers and their partners examining every link in the supply chain and adding multiple layers of security.

Vulnerabilities in the pharmaceutical supply chain

Pharmaceuticals must pass between two key points: The point of production and the point of sale (POS). The POS may range from a pharmacy chain, hospitals/other care centers or specialty medical distributors such as government buyers. All of these are vulnerable to pharmaceutical scams.

There are generally four intermediate stages that pharmaceuticals must pass through between manufacture and consumers. Providers place orders with their distribution partners, who then contact their distribution centers. There, the pick, pack and ship process takes place before the order is transported to the seller. 

The process is fast at every stage and reliant on every other step happening quickly, which means patient protection can be compromised by one weak link.


The vital steps needed to secure pharma

The first task is to get every link in the supply chain from source to seller fully involved with, and contributing to, security measures. It’s all too common for business models with many partners/departments to discover that not everyone understands their role in safeguarding the supply chain. Such poor communication is an internal weak link that can’t be blamed on anyone else.

The ability to communicate relies heavily on all supply points having access to real-time information. This empowers everyone to recognize when something may be unusual or out of sync with normal supply chain operations, and any party can then contact partners, logistics suppliers and customers to alert them as needed. Therefore, end-to-end traceability is the next must-have.

The further down the supply chain a point is, the greater their reliance on the authenticity of the product. End-to-end pharmaceutical traceability helps secure this supply chain and protect pharma brands because every party can track medicines back to the source, forging deeper bonds of trust and confidence between staff at all stages. It’s also the foundation of patient protection, which increases good relations between consumers and producers.

Pharmaceutical scams rely on holes and blind spots in a supply chain. This is how bad actors are able to insert themselves into the process and steal product or mix their own, cheaper fake drugs in with yours. End-to-end protection provides total inventory visibility, meaning everyone from company head to consumer can verify exactly where and whom their medication came from.

U-NICA complements your supply chain solutions

Every stage of the supply chain can be strengthened by our security solutions. They provide indelible, reliable and easy-to-use answers to the most pressing concerns. 

Our scryptoTRACE® solution is a fully scalable, rapid-response answer to counterfeit concerns that addresses the entire product cycle. It’s an end-to-end brand value protection and product protection solution that can be integrated into every step of the product value chain, from design and manufacturing to distribution, sales and purchasing. 

The solution approaches product security from two directions:

  • It allows consumers to easily authenticate genuine products
  • It allows the product or brand owner to track counterfeiting activity and gain information that can help lead to arrests and prosecution

scryptoTRACE® uses passive image recognition technologies to authenticate products based on active markings — it’s like adding a fingerprint for your products. The suite provides a platform for marking, product recognition and secure verification. With these markings, every link in the supply chain can use our unique smartphone app to quickly and reliably determine a product’s authenticity. 

The markings can be overt, semi-covert, covert or forensic. Several different security levels can even be applied to the same object to allow different methods of authentication for consumers and experts (such as inspectors and customs officials).

U-NICA plastoTRACETM allows holographic elements to be embedded directly into product design with no waste or clean up, enabling cost-effective lifetime authenticity checks. Our solution provides invisible trademark protection for products at subtly levels ranging from covert to forensic.

These measures can all be combined to add multiple security layers to fight pharmaceutical scams and help pharma producers meet compliance requirements. U-NICA can also get everyone in your supply chain, from production and management to POS, on the same security page, creating a culture of communication and awareness to promote patient protection in these dangerous times.

Real-time information to enable quick decisions. Chain-wide risk awareness and communication. Airtight product protection and verification. These are the hallmarks of U-NICA dedicated security services. Get in touch with us today to learn more.

U-NICA is a team with a single purpose: supporting you in the fight to protect your brand’s integrity and value. Our staff operates globally and partners with universities and agencies to deliver the future of brand protection. Connect with me for more information on our constantly evolving open solution suite.