Over 10% of all pharmaceuticals in the global supply chain are counterfeit and counterfeit medicines cause over €200 billion in compounded losses per year, worldwide. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals have a negative impact on the economy and pose a serious threat to human health. Counterfeit drugs death toll kills 1 million people each year and for example, 120,000 deaths are caused just because of fake anti-malarials.
The composition of counterfeit medicines differs from genuine products. Some counterfeit medicines do not contain any active ingredients at all, some may have them but not the right amount. Some counterfeit medicines can contain various toxic chemicals or a high amount of the wrong ingredients, which can have a serious effect on the patient’s health. It also erodes the brand value of the pharma companies. The packaging of counterfeit medicines can look almost exactly like genuine items. Serialization with track and trace and product packing is not fully able to prevent counterfeiting as the pharmaceutical ingredient itself is not checked. Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly investing in countermeasures, such as traceability and authentication technologies to try to minimize the impact and costs of counterfeit medicines.
Counterfeit medicines are everywhere
Counterfeit medicines can be found anywhere, they could be in a street pharmacy, online shop, or within a legitimate supply chain. These days illegal online pharmacies are a big part of the problem, in Europe alone 130 million people order from illegal online pharmacies and in the US 50% of online pharma purchases are counterfeit.
For example, malaria is a disease that can be prevented and even cured with proper medication - unfortunately, depending on the country, 33-64% of malaria medication is fake. The situation is the worst in Nigeria, wherein some areas even 70% of all medication is forged. Annually almost 700 000 people are killed because of counterfeit malaria and tuberculosis medication. Africa is among the regions most affected, where 20-90% of anti-malarial medicine is counterfeit. Another report from WHO specified alarming numbers that around 79,000 to 169,000 children might be dying each year from pneumonia because they are being treated with fake antibiotics.
We collected some world-wide statistics in the infographic, and you will get an idea of how big of a problem we're dealing with:
Digitalize your anti-counterfeiting
But why it has been difficult to fight against counterfeit medicines? Usually, laboratory analysis is slow, complex, and expensive. Current hand-held instruments are far too expensive to be widely deployed which limits the use of those devices only to specific cases. Also, providing all required data to the handhelds on the ground in an offline mode is difficult and costs of decentralized maintenance become high.
The Spectral Engines’ NIRONE digitalized anti-counterfeit solution enables pharmaceutical companies to efficiently authenticate their products in all at any point in their supply chains from manufacturing to distribution or practically anywhere in the field where product authentication is needed. Our solution combines a pocket-size lab grade spectrometer with mobile app connectivity and cloud-based reference libraries with machine learning making it an extremely powerful tool complementing anti-counterfeit measures. Our scanners are easy to use in the field and the user sees the result within seconds, and our technology enables the user to check the content of the pills even within the blister packaging. We also provide a centralized worldwide maintenance service for all the deployed scanners, the application, and the pharmaceutical raw data. The solution helps pharmaceutical companies to digitalize their anti-counterfeiting actions ensuring their product integrity, protect their brands, and ensure patient safety and save lives.