Express Pharma

Fighting counterfeiting requires a long-term battle and we need to start somewhere

Globally, incidents of fake, counterfeiting pharma products are on the rise and recent cyber attacks on some pharma companies involved in the development of COVID-19 vaccine are raising a further alarm. Nakul Pasricha, President, Authentication Solution Providers' Association (ASPA) talks about the need for a phygital approach to secure the supply chain integrity and facilitate easy identification of genuine COVID-19 vaccines, with Usha Sharma 

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COVID-19 vaccines are here but there are reports about a surge in the cyber attacks in the pharma sector as well. How can a data breach become a critical, serious event?

Yes, there are concerns related to cybersecurity also. According to a report published in the Wall Street Journal, hackers from North Korea are trying to infiltrate companies in the US, the UK and South Korea working on COVID-19 treatments including the leading COVID-19 vaccine makers. Further, cybercriminals are creating fake websites related to COVID-19 to entice victims and dupe innocent consumers. Trend Micro reported that nearly one million spam messages are linked to COVID-19 since January 2020. There are incidents reported across the globe, criminals making fraud because of supply shortages. In one instance, German health authorities caught an elaborate international scam-paying million for masks that do not exist.

What measures need to be taken by pharma companies involved in developing COVID-19 vaccine to ensure product quality till it reaches the last mile? 

Brands should contemplate putting in place a comprehensive anti-counterfeiting system that starts with adopting physical authentication and traceability solutions to eradicate tampering chances and secure supply chain integrity. A contingency plan should also be drawn to alert customers, suppliers, authorities, and the public in the event falsified products are discovered in the supply chain. Globally, companies are deploying measures to ensure product supply chain integrity, safety, and security.

Some solution providers have taken the initiative of providing robust authentication solutions to pharma companies making COVID-19 vaccines. How will they benefit the pharma companies as well as people? Will such solutions add cost to the finished product? 

The safety initiatives are welcomed and a much-needed step in the right direction. Investment in robust authentication solutions creates a win-win situation for each stakeholder. Escalating incidents of counterfeiting, tampering and diversion are threats to the integrity of global drug supply. According to a recent report by IDC, while surveying 532 global supply chain leaders it found that 75 per cent of them believe that COVID-19 will greatly increase problems with drug diversion, including theft and counterfeiting of critical products (such as test kits, vaccines, and antiviral medicines). There are ample benefits including maintaining brand integrity, the trust of consumers, preventing liability clauses, recouping lost revenue etc., that provide a great return on investment to pharma companies. Even, authentication systems also help companies and regulators in saving enforcement cost as these facilitate easy identification. More than that, from a country perspective, fighting fakes will plug criminals funding. At the consumer point, he receives genuine medicine, which he is assured of.

Can you give us a brief update about tech-enabled, advanced solutions used in ensuring the quality of COVID-19 vaccines in the supply chain? 

Today, there are many solutions availa