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EFPIA coding system tackles counterfeits

A pilot project to verify medicines to help reduce the risk of counterfeit medicines being dispensed to patients has been unveiled

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), in conjunction with project partners Apoteket AB, the Swedish pharmaceutical retailer and local wholesalers Tamro & Oriola-KD, has unveiled a pilot project to verify medicines to help reduce the risk of counterfeit medicines being dispensed to patients.

The system is part of EFPIA's response to the European Commission's proposal for a mass serialisation of medicinal products to better protect EU citizens from the serious threats posed by counterfeit medicines. EFPIA hopes the system, along with other measures, will offer the basis for a cost-effective, harmonised and interoperable system across member states that will help reduce the risk of a proliferation of incompatible national systems, and help ensure product verification for medicine wherever they are dispensed within the EU.

Using a small data matrix - similar to a barcode – to individually number each pack of medicine, the system provides pharmacists with an almost instantaneous verification of whether that pack has been previously dispensed. The data matrix, which is smaller than a fingernail, contains information such as product code, batch number, expiry date and a unique, randomised serial number that identifies each packs individually. If there is a risk that the pack is counterfeit, the dispensing pharmacist will be alerted immediately.

Brian Ager, director general of EFPIA commented that the initiative represents an important contribution to meeting the challenge posed by counterfeit medicines entering the legitimate supply chain. "By investing in this pilot project, the research-based industry has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to patient safety," he said.

While Mr Ager recognises that individual product verification will not provide a complete solution to the challenge of counterfeit medicines, he points out that - as part of a package of measures - this  type of end-to-end verification system will make a significant contribution to product security and reinforce patient confidence in the legitimate supply chain.

The EFPIA system is being trialled in 25 retail pharmacies in and around Stockholm and will verify more than 100,000 products. It is expected to run until November.

20th October 2009

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