Counterfeit drugs is a big problem for the pharmaceutical and medical industry. Looking at it from the manufacturers, scientists and distributors’ point of views, it is money lost and image tarnished when consumers fail to realize that they are purchasing and consuming non-authentic drugs. With so much at stake, the industry is continuously staking out new technologies that can help them control the abuse and threat. Some time back, we were writing about how the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations is trying to launch a project which involves tagging drugs with QR Code. When consumers and pharmacies scan the QR Code, they can tell whether the said drug is the real thing or the cheap fake.
Traceability is a big problem that the previous systems were unable to lock down on. Despite using the barcoding system, there continues to be people who abuse the system, copies the code and presents themselves as the real drug to the unknowing consumers. Are consumers afraid and concerned? Generally speaking, in most countries, people ARE concerned about purchasing counterfeit drugs.
‘It involves our health, it is something that I put into my body and if it is not the real thing, I want to know. But at this stage, we have no way of really knowing the authenticity of the drugs that we get off pharmacies. We rely on the pharmacy to verify the authenticity of the drugs because we have no other way of knowing. There is no recourse for consumers if the fake drugs affect our health or cause death. And that is scary,’ says Samantha Joy, a twenty-nine year old mother to a six months old child.
Information is crucial to coming up with traceability and this can be done with very specific QR Codes printed on the packaging of each product. What other barcoding system was unable to address, QR Code can because it can hold much more information apart from price, weight, product name, etc. The secret is this – with QR Codes, security codes can be embedded into the QR Codes. Something even those who are in the counterfeit drugs manufacturing industry is unable to hack.
What is even better about using QR Codes to launch a battle against counterfeit drug makers is that it is literally very cheap for mass printing. The technology is already there and there is no requirement of an extensive make-over in the system. Do they have to invest in large equipments that can print the ‘special’ QR Codes? Absolutely not. The technology that the pharmaceutical industry is currenetly using is adequate in printing out the said QR Codes whatsoever.
With this, let’s hope that we can finally walk into a drug store knowing full well that we are purchasing the real thing instead of the cheap fake.
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