U-NICA Apr 19, 2021 1:17:04 PM 10 min read

Medication ID - What It Is and How it Works

There's a dangerous global trade in counterfeit drugs, and it's putting the whole world at risk. Learn how medication identification helps in the fight.

With the world reeling from the impact of a new Coronavirus, the legitimacy of medication has become more important than ever. By far the cruelest example of the counterfeiter’s “trade” is fake medicines — a global scourge that was costing lives and billions of dollars long before COVID-19 appeared.

Like all counterfeits, it’s not just those unlucky or unwise enough to buy false pharmaceuticals who suffer. These fakes have a knock-on effect that puts everyone at risk, and medication identification is one of our best hopes in preventing sales of counterfeit drugs. Here’s what happens where no — or convincingly forged — medication ID exists.

Why identifying and authenticating medication is so important

Base-level medication identification scales upward from a respected brand name to the graphics of its packaging, dosage information and serial numbers on individual boxes or batch containers. However, fakes still manage to circumvent these measures intended to legitimize products. Identifying counterfeit drugs is made harder since they are frequently offered in convincing packaging that can fool even trained physicians.

The Lancet reported on a suspected outbreak of meningitis in Central Africa. The debilitating symptoms were later exposed as the toxic effects of counterfeit pills masquerading as Diazepam/Valium. The report perfectly captures the problem posed by a lack of reliable medication ID, stating how weak medicine regulatory systems with inadequate penalties, corruption and porous borders render populations extremely vulnerable to toxic and sub-therapeutic medicines.

The case in Central Africa is symptomatic of an underground market that can dump fake drugs anywhere. Indeed, counterfeit medicines are a pandemic as deadly as any disease and are killing hundreds of thousands of adults and children every year.

Counterfeit drugs statistics

The International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT) is a coalition spearheaded by the World Health Organization. Their data reveals the global scope of the problem: While it’s true that the minority of counterfeit drugs make their way to industrialized nations, it’s still estimated that they account for one% of sales in these developed countries.

This may seem tolerably low, but in the United States alone, over 4 billion prescriptions were filled last year. One% of a billion means 10 million sales may have been counterfeit drugs — a number which could have been greatly reduced with more demanding medication ID security.

The situation is worse for areas like Africa, Argentina and parts of Asia where as much as 30% of pharmaceutical sales may be counterfeit. Nor can we forget how the internet has become a global apothecary dispensing drugs to all corners of the world. It’s suspected that online drug sales may be counterfeit in as many as 50% of all cases and all because they needn’t pass rigorous supply chain ID checks. These drugs go straight from the counterfeiter to the customer.

Medication ID - What It Is and How it Works content

The high price of insufficient medication ID

IMPACT stresses the damage even a single case of a fake drug purchase can cause. Beyond the physical danger to the buyer (which may also include making a patient resistant to legitimate medicines), it can lead to an undermining of our global health providers as people lose faith in their ability to provide care and not counterfeits.

A tragic report in The Guardian revealed that counterfeit drugs are already a black market worth $200 billion. Canada’s Financial Post reported that experts estimate the sale of counterfeit drugs is growing at twice the rate of legitimate pharmaceuticals and is expected to increase by 20% annually in the future. Today, the counterfeit drug trade is worth more than narcotics and costs the global pharmaceutical industry $75 billion every year.

How U-NICA can help identify medication and fight counterfeit drugs

Certainty that the drug in your hand is legitimate depends on being able to identify it at every stage of the supply chain. U-NICA offers a multi-tiered security suite designed to optimize medication identification and beat counterfeit drugs. As research published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information highlights, counterfeiters not only copy the trademark, the label design and the trade dress (graphics) of well-known branded products, they also copy addresses and pose as licensees.

Since supply chain security threats are a greater risk to healthcare products than almost any other industry, we constantly work to provide high levels of security with our brand value and product protection solutions, which can help protect medical suppliers and consumers from unsafe copies.

U-NICA can help medical manufacturers distinguish their products from cheap imitations and guarantee safe revenues. Our scryptoTRACE® suite ensures the integrity of your brand from design right through to sales, leaving no room for confusion as to which medications are genuine.

Since this solution has a unique smartphone app for recognition, it empowers your distribution partners, the authorities and your consumer base to better identify counterfeit drugs and fight counterfeiters. It can also integrate with other enterprise systems and new and foreign marking and recognition technologies; a significant benefit since there is no globally recognized model for medication identification.

In my next blog, I’ll take a closer look at other measures pharma uses to beat counterfeiters. For a personal appointment, connect with me at the link below and let’s talk about how U-NICA can help protect you and your customers.

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.