US packaging specialist Chesapeake's new Pro-tex anti-counterfeiting technology is designed to provide drugmakers, distributors and consumers with a simple, cost-effective means of instantly verifying the authenticity of individual pharmaceutical products.
Pro-tex enables manufacturers to assign products a unique ID code that users further down the supply chain can check against a centralized database using an SMS message. If the code is genuine a confirmatory reply is returned direct to the purchaser, whereas if it is fake, a duplicate or absent from the system altogether a text warning is sent.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that fake drug sales will be worth $75bn by 2010. As a result, regulatory agencies worldwide have called for the widespread adoption of track and trace technologies to help combat the problem.
While a recent Kalorama Information report valued the market for radio-frequency identification (RFID) and Ultra-wideband (UWB) tagging at $2.7bn in 2007, continuing efforts to cut production costs in the drug industry mean that there is still considerable scope for low-tech, low-cost tracking methods.
Additionally, in March this year, the California State Board of Pharmacy voted to delay the implementation of its ePedigree drug tracking system. The board conceded that, while some form of monitoring system is a necessity, there are still questions to be answered about the effectiveness of proposed track and trace technologies that have been discussed to date.
Check at point of purchase
Chesapeake's head of research and development, Carol Hammond, told in-PharmaTechnologist, that the firm: "believe there is a need to offer the consumer a visible and usable system to confirm product authenticity at point-of-purchase."
The codes will be generated and recorded by Chesapeake in its secure database prior to being passed on to the manufacturer for application to the product during packaging operations, for a per-code fee.
Hammond adding that while the system is dependant upon the SMS network for the speed of response, research conducted by the firm indicates that the average time to the issuance of a confirmatory message is less than one minute.
She conceded that "it is not possible to protect against a network failure," but added that the firm's suggestion is that "if a reply message is not received then the safest option is to wait and if possible delay the purchase, alternatively we have some clients who are considering a customer service telephone number for such emergencies."
Hammond explained that one key advantage of the system is that because it issues responses in the form of a text message, it allows consumers to check product authenticity in real time at the point of purchase.
She added that Chesapeake is currently in talks with several pharmaceutical firms who are interested in integrating the Pro-tex system, but was unable for reasons of client confidentiality to provide any additional details.
Chesapeake also believes that Pro-tex has potential as a market research and promotional tool. As well as being used to issue users with updates about specific products, the system allows manufacturers to track the distribution of drugs in the wider pharmaceutical supply chain.