Friday, June 6, 2008

What the True Pharmaceutical Security Focus Should Be: Authentication

As many of those who have spent many years within the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain, I watch the major players within the pharmaceutical industry jockey and debate the current initiatives that are intended to secure the safety and efficacy of the medications that we in the United States take daily.

In this era of globalization we in the United States find ourselves increasingly consuming medications that use foreign produced raw materials, outsourced manufacturing and are packaged overseas. Although most of these efforts are managed and regulated according to tight corporate and FDA scrutiny, serious issues have arisen recently which demonstrate nefarious intent to circumvent the safety and security of these globally produced products.

Additionally we find international and domestic criminal organizations, realizing the potential of high profits and low risk, using sophisticated operations to adulteration, dilute or counterfeit medications that make their way into our drug stores and healthcare providers.

The threats to our safety as a nation are real. The danger that contaminated, adulterated, diluted or counterfeit medications that our population currently faces is increasing every day.

Unfortunately we find that there are few deterrents or regulatory processes in place to adequately protect our population from these sophisticated threats to our collective health.

Currently the Congress, Federal and State regulatory agencies are grappling with the most effective way to deal with this clear and present danger. To date most if not all of their efforts have been focused on track and trace technologies and protocols. Track and trace encompass RFID, advance bar codes; hologram labels technology and pedigree protocols.

Although these efforts are part of the solution, they fall short of truly and efficiently solving the problem. The obstacles to quickly adapting them as an effective solution are many. They are costly, time consuming to adopt, have numerous technical challenges, are not standardized and most importantly require each member of the supply chain to be synchronized and monitored for them to be an effective deterrent.

However the biggest drawback is that the only thing that track and trace technologies and protocols adequately track and trace is the packaging that the medication is packaged. Despite all of the cost, technical challenges and time consuming efforts that they entail, these efforts do not authenticate or verify the actual contents which may have been adulterated, counterfeited, diluted or contaminated at one of various points within the supply chain.

Currently XStream Systems, XT250 technology has the ability to quickly, efficiently and effectively authenticate and verify the contents of the medication within the sealed container. This process can happen in a very cost effective manner anywhere within the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain with little or no change in processes or protocols. It can complement existing Track and Trace initiatives by actually providing authentication documentation or operate as a standalone system.

The cost of implementing and operating authentication technology such as the XT250 is a fraction of the initial start up costs of an RFID system and it could be operational in a fraction of the time that it would take for one segment of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain to implement universally.

Maybe it is just too obvious but I hope that those in a position to make a difference take time to look at filling in the gaps in the current mindset and direction of protecting our Pharmaceutical Supply Chain. Hopefully they discover that the ultimate solution is to authenticate and verify what is in the bottle.

Alan Clock, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing, XStream Systems, Inc

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