Innomech Highlights Importance of Drug Traceability

Pharma IQ

While drugs and medicines offer major benefits to millions of people across the globe, it is an unfortunate truth that the pharmaceutical industry is not immune to dangerous criminal activity. One of the most notable issues which blight the sector is the counterfeiting of medicines, which has grown to become a major concern for both drug manufacturers and authorities alike.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the definition of counterfeit drugs can cover a range of products, from those designed to just be inactive to others formulated with harmful toxic substances.

In a recent factsheet, the body revealed examples of some of the counterfeit products found in the world's drug markets recently. Among them was an anti-diabetic medicine found in China in 2009, which contained six times the normal dose of glibenclamide and led to the death of two people. Other examples discovered in Tanzania, the US and the UK in recent years lacked sufficient active ingredients, meaning patients using them would not be receiving the treatment they expected.

Because of the dangers that counterfeiting can pose, there has been a growing interest in how organisations can protect their products from being mimicked by criminal gangs or others involved in the illicit activity. Serialisation and traceability have become key buzzwords for such firms, as they look to boost the security of their supply chain and ensure patients are guaranteed the right product at the correct time.

One company which is involved in developing new systems to tackle the issue of counterfeiting is GB Innomech. Established in 1990, the Cambridge-based organisation specialises in automation solutions for the pharmaceutical, industrial and manufacturing industries. The company recently confirmed it has developed a new technique designed to allow pharmaceutical companies to ensure they can quickly and efficiently identify their products, which in turn will boost traceability.

According to the Cambridge Network, the new approach would allow manufacturers to add a code mark to their products which will either be unique or shared by a handful of drugs created at the same time. A two-dimensional dot matrix, the mark can be used as a code to access information on the product linked to a database, which may include its production line, time of manufacture and its ingredients.

Steve Robertson, managing director of Innomech, suggested that interest in the new system has been high. He explained to the website: "Innomech is now working with several clients to help adjust their manufacturing processes to incorporate this powerful new approach and enable products to be much more easily marked than has previously been possible."

So, with interest so high, what is the key benefit that this new tracing technique can offer? According to Innomech, the ability to use the coding on the products in line with online technology could potentially revolutionise the industry and help in the fight against counterfeiting.

The firm explained that medical personnel in Africa who are preparing to dispense treatment for malaria drugs could, for example, take a picture of the code and send it to the database to confirm the validity of the substances.

Innomech stated on the Cambridge Network that the integration of such approaches fitted with the organisation's aim to ensure "high-risk areas are thoroughly investigated through feasibility studies".

"Ensuring the appropriate type of laser which is suitable to the product and is capable of being used as part of the overall automation solution is a key area of investigation," the firm added.

The work of organisations such as Innomech looks set to play a vital role in the future of the pharmaceutical industry. With counterfeit drugs remaining a major problem impacting on the sector, such new solutions point a way towards a better future for both drug developers and the patients they aim to support.

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