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Nandita Vijayasimha, Bengaluru April 13 , 2024
The pharmaceutical industry in the country is now increasingly investing into advanced technologies ranging from track-and-trace systems, barcoding, RFID, and blockchain to QR code and holograms are being employed for authentication and transparency to combat counterfeits.
These technologies provide reliable means of confirming the legitimacy of goods and protecting supply chains. Although verifying product authenticity through online tools, apps, or manufacturer-provided QR codes is one of the proactive steps, it is important to note that these are generally used as a track and trace system or to provide useful information about the product. Holograms, on the other hand, are an effective anti-counterfeiting measure as it offers robust security features owing to the fact that they are challenging to replicate, and each one is unique which aids in visual verification and tamper detection.
International cooperation, stricter regulations, penalties, and enforcement actions are deemed imperative, alongside public awareness campaigns to educate consumers and foster vigilance.

The majority of counterfeit charges do not carry a bail requirement, however the quantity of counterfeiters has only increased. However, amidst these challenges concerted efforts in a mix of domains such as technology, consumer awareness, policy etc. are paving the way for a future where counterfeiting becomes increasingly difficult, if not altogether eradicated, said Manoj Kochar, president, Authentication Solution Providers’ Association (ASPA).
Counterfeit pharmaceuticals present a global menace affecting both developed and developing nations. World Health Organization estimates 10% of the global pharmaceutical market is comprised of counterfeit drugs, manifesting as substandard, falsified, or misbranded products.
Beyond health hazards, these fraudulent medications inflict economic losses, legal quandaries, and tarnish the reputations of pharmaceutical firms. Patients consuming counterfeit drugs unknowingly are at risk of experiencing adverse effects, treatment failures, or even fatality, particularly for malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS. Economically, the global loss due to counterfeit pharmaceuticals amounts to tens of billions of dollars annually, impacting legitimate pharmaceutical companies through decreased sales and reputational harm, while governments face increased healthcare expenditures and diminished tax revenue. The complexity of the pharmaceutical supply chain, with manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers, provides ample opportunities for counterfeit drugs to infiltrate, exacerbated by weak regulatory oversight, inadequate quality control, and corruption, Kochar told Pharmabiz.
In India, pharmaceutical industry despite garnering significant growth; nonetheless, encounters counterfeits and inferior medicines. The risk of counterfeiting has greatly increased with the onset of globalisation and growing healthcare expenses, he added.
The pharmaceutical industry in India, which produces 20–22% of the generic pharmaceuticals used worldwide, is seriously threatened by counterfeiting. In India, instances of substandard and falsified (SF) medical supplies rose by almost 47% between 2020 and 2021, particularly during Covid-19. False pharmaceutical items and counterfeit medications cause the pharmaceutical supply chain worldwide to lose an astounding $200 billion in revenue each year, he said.
The top 300 pharmaceutical brands are now required by to include QR codes on their packaging. Barcodes and QR codes with tamper-evident seals are among the physical and digital security measures that must be combined to ensure the integrity of the whole supply chain. Even though technology is always improving and both help and hinder attempts to combat counterfeiting, depending just on these developments has its limitations, said Kochar.
As such, the quest for answers involves not just technology but also public awareness and collaboration. Thankfully, technical advancements have accelerated across a range of economic areas because of the collaboration between the public and private sectors. This cooperative endeavour now creates new opportunities to utilise state-of-the-art digital technology in the battle against counterfeiting, said Kochar.

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