Tech guns aim at counterfeiters

Sophisticated quality measurement technologies, as well as multinational investigative and research efforts, are being marshaled to ensure the quality of drugs, says the Canadian Health Products and Food Branch. Some 300 attendees from 26 countries heard of the government's efforts at the annual scientific meeting of the U.S. Pharmacopeial (USP) Convention in Toronto.

Tactical sophistication is clearly warranted: the profit margin on fake Viagra was estimated to be 2,000 times that for cocaine, according to ASM speakers. And although many people believe in the safety of drugs purchased from online pharmacies calling themselves "Canadian," that belief is unfounded: There are more than 11,000 such sites, with just 214 actually registered in Canada. And it turns out that the search term "Canadian pharmacy" is one of the world's biggest spam generators.

Likewise, speakers at the upcoming Next Generation Pharma (NGP) Summit are expected to describe how drug makers are turning to nanotechnologies, labeling specialists, RFID and asset tracking experts in attempts to foil counterfeiters and protect their brands.

The speakers should find a receptive audience: Some 75 percent of life sciences executives in a recent IBM survey identified the monitoring risk to prevent counterfeiting and recalls a priority, as margins become slimmer and supply chain complexity rises. Three-quarters of respondents say they have risk and performance initiatives in place, including surveillance programs, anti-tamper devices and specialized labeling, but are experiencing mixed results.

- here's the USP meeting recap
- see the NGP item
- read the IBM survey announcement