The growing problem of counterfeit drugs poses an increasing threat to public health and the health of the pharmaceutical industry.
Alexis Pelleck in the September 2nd issue of Pharmaceutical Technology conducts a round table discussion focused on authentication technologies as a means of identifying and detecting genuine products.
Ms. Pelleck begins the conversation by looking at terrorist organizations as producers of counterfeits and conducts a Q&A with John D. Glover, formerly of the FBI and US State Department and discusses links between terrorism and counterfeits. Mr. Glover’s comments are an excellent source of insights regarding the global link of terrorism and counterfeiting.
Ms. Pelleck then conducts Q&A with some leaders of companies that offer authentication technologies.
Some of the highlights from Mr. Glover’s Q&A which discusses counterfeiting links to terrorism:
• In 2000, Terry Anslow, chief investigator of the Crime Unit of the European Leisure Software Publishers Association, reported that terrorists have found counterfeiting to be a lucrative means of raising funds.
• As early as 2001, Alan Slobodin, senior counsel for the US House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, stated that there was strong evidence linking the sale of counterfeit medicines on the Internet to terrorist organizations in the Middle East.
• In 2002, the US Customs Service warned of an increasingly close connection between transnational crime and terrorism, with the profits from pirated and counterfeit goods being the strongest link.
• In 2003, the secretary-general of Interpol reported that the pirating of products such as computer software, CDs, and DVDs was becoming the preferred method of funding for a number of terrorist organizations. He mentioned direct and indirect connections between counterfeiting and Hezbollah, Chechen rebels, extremist groups in Kosovo, and al-Qaida, among others.
• The US State Department, in 2004, wrote that the tri-border region of South America—Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay—is a regional hub for Hamas and Hezbollah fundraising activities, including the manufacture and distribution of pirated goods.
• Additionally, some law enforcement agencies have linked al-Qaida to the sale of fake perfumes and shampoos.
• In the early 1990s, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) set up a laboratory in Florida to produce fake vials of an anti-parasitic drug for livestock. The labels for the fake pharmaceuticals were printed on a Northern Ireland farm. Proceeds from the operation were sent to the IRA to purchase arms.
• Although not directly on point, it was widely reported in 2002 that Hezbollah generated millions of dollars by smuggling pharmaceuticals from Canada to clandestine labs in the US to produce methamphetamine.
• Experts currently believe that because the traditional sources of funding for terrorists groups are being restricted by US law enforcement agencies and our allies, terrorist organizations have turned to profiting from the manufacture and sale of pirated and counterfeit goods. International law-enforcement activities are believed to be making a difference in the sources of funding of terrorist activities. Terrorists are avoiding formal financial channels, and are engaging in riskier behavior such as smuggling, pirating of goods, and counterfeiting.
• Counterfeiting is a serious crime that poses a threat to health and safety, yet the criminal sanctions against this heinous behavior are light. Given the potential for large profit, coupled with a low detection rate and comparatively light sentences, there is little to deter potential violators. This needs to change, and laws need to be strengthened. Law enforcement sanctions should be more comprehensive, sentencing should be stronger, fines made larger, assets seized, and violators within the healthcare system prohibited from engaging in future medical-related activities.
• The issue of terrorist groups raising funds through the manufacture and sale of counterfeit goods must be addressed in a comprehensive way. This includes better intergovernmental cooperation, stronger laws, improved technology, and greater consumer awareness.
• Regarding pharmaceutical supply-chain protection, most of the emphasis has been placed on package security, with a focus on electronic product codes such as radiofrequency identification (RFID) and two-dimensional (2D) bar-coding. Package security is an important step that will provide a level of security, but it does not ensure the authenticity of the product. This is especially true when the majority of prescription medicines are legitimately repackaged before they reach the patient.
The article concludes with various Q&A's with industry executives regarding their authentication technologies.
Securing Pharma Chain endorses all efforts and solutions to this deadly criminal act but acknowledges that authentication is the most effective way of combating fraudulent, adulterated and counterfeit medications within the pharmaceutical supply chain.
To read the entire Pharmaceutical Technology article, visit: http://pharmtech.findpharma.com/pharmtech/IT/Authentication-and-Pharmaceutical-Protection-An-In/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/685888?contextCategoryId=48560.
To learn more about pharmaceutical anti-counterfeiting technologies, visit: www.xstreamsystems.net.