Securing the Supply Chain: No Single Solution



Pharma IQ
12/01/2010

Securing the supply chain is a top priority for the global pharmaceutical industry. With so many solutions being presented, selecting the right technology can be its own challenge.

In a recent Pharma IQ interview, Christoph Krahenbuhl, IS programme manager for pack coding and product security at AstraZeneca said: "There are so many. It’s almost a full-time job to keep on top of them! There is a lot of clever technology and many different promising approaches. As a company, you’ve got to be selective and choose what we do and how it fits in with our strategy and the priority areas we have identified."

Working together

Krahenbuhl also spoke about the importance of the industry working to together to combat counterfeiting. He said: "We also need to choose solutions where we work together with our stakeholders, because it’s not something we can do on our own. Working with stakeholders - with governments, trade associations and others - to raise awareness and strengthen law enforcement is important."

Earlier this year, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) carried out a pilot programme in Sweden, using a two dimensional data-matrix to allow pharmacies and distributers to verify the legitimacy of products.

Under the system, which prevents counterfeit medicines from being distributed through the legitimate supply chain, each individual packet was given a unique serial number, which is then checked when the product is distributed to the patient.

Brian Ager, director general of EFPIA, unveiling the pilot last year, commented: "Individual product verification will not provide a complete solution to the challenge of counterfeit medicines.

"Nevertheless, as part of a package of measures, this type of end-to end verification system will make a significant contribution to product security and reinforce patient confidence in the legitimate supply chain"

Across boundaries

Currently individual member states have their own serialisation solutions in place, however this presents challenges when products are distributed across boundaries. The EFPIA is therefore proposing a standard serialisation solution, which would apply in all European Union member states.

Some 17 countries currently operate a full GS1 GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) code structure, 11 use an NTIN structure, which is compatible with the European Article Number (EAN) 13 digit code, while four countries, including Germany, use a system which is incompatible with EAN.

Under the EFPIA's vision, the EU-wide system should be in place in the next three to five years.

There is great demand for standardised approaches to counterfeiting and solutions that can be rolled out globally, but this requires unity from pharmaceutical companies, vendors and trade associations.

"We’ve got to solve this challenge together, to work together to provide a solution that will have the acceptance and support of the industry and protect patients from the dangers of counterfeit and illegally diverted medicines," said Krahenbuhl.

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