In recent years, the pharmaceutical industry has faced increasing scrutiny due to the infiltration of counterfeit medicines into legitimate supply chain pathways and the distribution networks of unwitting providers. Technological solutions have the potential to address this ongoing issue and facilitate faster and more accurate regulatory oversight within the pharmaceutical supply chain.
Rahul Adakmol, COO of International Business, discussed a WHO report that revealed that between 10 per cent to 15 per cent of medicines are either counterfeit or substandard, resulting in nearly 100,000 additional deaths when patients unknowingly receive counterfeit medications.
In a similar vein, Nakul Pasricha, President and CEO of PharmaSecure, and President of the Authentication Solution Providers’ Association, highlighted the devastating impact of substandard or fake medicines in sub-Saharan Africa, where approximately half a million people lost their lives in 2021.
Pasricha also commended the Indian government for pioneering the use of barcoding on exported medicines to ensure their quality. He stressed the importance of adopting the right technology among the various available options and complying with regulations to overcome these challenges.
Anubha Dixit, Founder & CEO of Tongadive, underscored the significant regulatory compliances within the pharma supply chain, focusing on visibility, control, and public welfare. She mentioned, "Technology solutions like traceability have become the foundation for providing unique IDs to individual products."
AI offers immediate applications in supply chain management, enabling real-time inventory management, while cloud technology facilitates network effects. IoT technology is becoming standardized, providing real-time tracking of the system, and cloud technologies based on SaaS (software as a service) can also benefit small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Technologies such as AI and blockchain have gained popularity in recent years. Dixit encouraged viewing technological tools as investments with returns that ultimately reduce costs and enhance manufacturing efficiency.
Adakmol pointed out that manufacturers have a crucial role in collaborating with regulatory bodies to identify wrongdoing in the market and law enforcement agencies must be actively engaged in addressing criminal activities. Adakmol emphasized the need for vigilance in identifying the origins of counterfeit medicines, highlighting specific geographical areas of concern.
Companies can leverage technology to overcome challenges in establishing a secure pharmaceutical supply chain. Dixit noted that counterfeiting goes beyond the production of fake goods and includes the diversion of products to alternative markets. Preventing reputational problems is a top priority for any company, she added.
Approximately 89 per cent of consumers are aware of the existence of counterfeit products in the market, with around 30 per cent knowingly purchasing them. Pasricha stressed the importance of consumer awareness and the need for them to take proactive steps to avoid counterfeit products. This includes checking expiry dates and reporting any issues in cases of irregularities, as well as utilising QR codes on medicines to access accurate information.