Fake Pills Place Pressure on Global Pharmaceutical Industry

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(DGIwire) — When people think of counterfeiters, they often think of men clandestinely printing off scores of illicit $20 bills in shady warehouses by moonlight. Perhaps Leonardo DiCaprio’s character from Catch Me If You Can or Willem Dafoe’s more sinister counterpoint in To Live and Die in LA come to mind. But many people don’t think about counterfeit prescriptions and the millions of potentially harmful little pills that are used to fill them.

They should. According to a November 2014 article in Medical Xpress, counterfeiting pills is a global pandemic, with Interpol—a global crime-fighting agency—estimating that a whopping 30 percent of all medicines in some regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America is phony. Interpol says that fake drugs are available in 111 countries, and their agents have seized billions of dollars of the contraband. In regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, where infectious outbreaks can kills thousands, counterfeiters prey on fear in order to sell unsubstantiated—and ineffective—malaria treatments at inflated prices.

On its website, the World Health Organization (WHO) identifies counterfeit medicines as those that are “deliberately and fraudulently mislabeled with respect to identity and/or source.”

The impact of counterfeiting medicines is also widespread. The European Pharmaceutical Review reported on March 10, 2015 that the cost of counterfeiting to the global economy was estimated to be about $75 billion in 2010. Recognition of this startlingly high number has led some manufacturers to wonder how to protect their drugs and reputations. Counterfeit products in the supply chain not only eat into profits, but can also negatively affect a product’s perception in the public eye if, say, a fake pill harms a patient.

To help solve this dilemma, Applied DNA Sciences, a company based in Stony Brook, NY, has developed a number of efficient anti-counterfeit and security solutions that can be utilized by pharmaceutical companies. One of the firm’s main concerns is supply chain protection, which helps maintain the proper course of legitimate goods throughout the supply chain, from the manufacturing plant to pharmacy shelves.

“Counterfeit pharmaceuticals pose a massive problem,” says Dr. James A. Hayward, president and CEO of Applied DNA Sciences. “The best way to combat this illegal activity is to ensure that every pill that fills your prescription is completely authentic.”

Applied DNA has developed a system to do just that. Its SigNature® DNA is a marking system that embeds an innovative DNA-based taggant to provide a safer way to authenticate original goods. These marks are impossible to change or remove, and are resistant to extreme temperatures, fluid damage or UV radiation. Since they are embedded on a microscopic level, this system is perfect for marking even the smallest pills.

With the pharmaceutical industry struggling so hard against impurities, the natural protection of DNA might just be the advance it needs to protect itself and its customers.