A security technology that had been strictly limited to use by governmental organisations is now available commercially, with several major pharmaceutical manufacturers keen to snap up the device and protect their supply chain. The product is set to aid the battle against the growing counterfeit drugs market, estimated to hit a massive $75bn (€57.3bn) globally by 2010.
The Latentogram security device, developed by ATB Security Technologies and showcased at the recent Pharmapack conference in Paris, is deceptively simple; it combines a holographic label which incorporates a latent image, with a simple credit-card sized hand-held viewer. Simply looking through the viewer at the hologram reveals the hidden latent image, and establishes the product's authenticity.
Although perhaps not as high tech as other security products emerging on the market, the product has distinct advantages over other security devices, and up until a year or so ago was available exclusively to government bodies using the Latentogram to protect important documentation.
"The product has a major benefit over other security measures," ATB executive vice president Vadim Yesepkin told In-PharmaTechnologist.com.
"If you take any security method, they all share a common downfall. To really authenticate a product you have to send it to an expert, or have an expensive authentication device. For example, authentication using RFID needs a whole infrastructure to go with it."
In contrast, all you need to authenticate a product protected by the Latentogram technology is a $0.50 (€0.39) hand-held reader. This is particularly important when testing is taking place in developing countries where infrastructures to support more costly security measures may simply not be possible.
"For example, you're more likely to find counterfeit goods in Thailand or Saudi Arabia than Paris," said Yesepkin.
The unique latent image technology is protected by a host of international patents and is the result of 20 years' research and development. The technology makes it possible to create textual and graphic images, photos and variable numeration within the hidden image.
Yesepkin told In-PharmaTechnologist.com that the technology has already been applied widely in Eastern Europe, across several different industries. "The return on investment is unbelievable," he said - one municipality in Eastern Europe applied the Latentogram to protect monthly travel tickets for their transport system, and within a month revenues had shot up 40 per cent. "They simply hadn't realised the extent of the counterfeiting" he said.
Several pharmaceutical companies have already taken up the security measures, mainly in Eastern Europe where the company began their marketing activities after widening the availability of the product beyond the government.
ATB are now pushing into the West, and several months ago began talks with several 'major' pharmaceutical companies in the US. Details of the discussions could not be disclosed, but the company anticipates that major contracts should be complete within a year.
As well as an anti-counterfeiting measure, the device also allows firms to keep control of their process and production line, providing a measure of internal control and validation. In some cases, companies have even supplied the inexpensive reader directly to customers, giving them the power to check for themselves the authenticity of the products they are buying.
However, as the pharmaceutical industry is well aware, counterfeiters are not easily deterred and swiftly find ways around security measures or methods to counterfeit the security measure itself. Conscious of this fact, the company has developed a series of products that they are holding back until they become necessary.
"At the moment is it not possible to replicate our product, but you never know what will happen in the future," said Yesepkin, "We have more things up our sleeve in development."
ATB does have another more specialised product, which is only available directly from the company and provides an extra measure of security. The holographic label can be manufactured incorporating two images, one of which is not visible with a standard reader. By using a second unique reader, both images become visible. This adds an extra measure of security, knowledge of which can be restricted so as to prevent potential counterfeiting, and provide additional verification should the first holographic image ever be successfully reproduced by fraudsters.
The Latentogram security technology can be adapted for standard printing equipment and integrated in standard printing processes, meaning that high volume products can be protected easily and effectively.
ATB Security Technologies - www.atb-lit.com