The technologies for the detection of fake medicines

The war against trafficking of falsified medicines is also fought in the field of technology.

Developed by experts and used by manufacturers and distributors, they can help ensure the integrity of the drug at any point in its lifecycle and to distinguish with certainty the authentic from the fake. The systematic, large-scale use of such tools in coherent strategies has demonstrated their effectiveness.

1. Terminology

Whether in the field of pharmaceuticals or not, the fight against counterfeiting calls on concepts that sometimes lend to confusion.

Each of these concepts answers different needs in the fight, but they are all instruments that are usually deployed in a complementary way to ensure perfect security of the product.


2. Authentication technologies

Today need for authentication technologies to combat medicine counterfeiting is evident.

Use is recommended by the WHO which advocated (in Rome in February 2006, for example) the development of innovative solutions to prevent counterfeiting while even more recently, the European Directive 2011/62/EC on “falsified drugs” confirmed and strengthened this recommendation by an obligation.


3. Identification technologies / traceability

The traceability of medicines is not a tool exclusively dedicated to the fight against counterfeiting.

In terms of safety, for example, it is essential for ensuring the withdrawal of batches in case of potential anomalies and is mandatory in many countries.

Used in the perspective of the fight against counterfeiting, the traceability of a drug presents a means for a pharmaceutical laboratory to mark its product in order to trace it and thus ensure the security of its distribution.

Its principle is based on the application and the systematic control of the medium containing the information. Comparison of information with that contained in a centralized and secure database allows the verification of product compliance. From there, any anomaly (and a fortiori any absence of marking) enables the deduction that the examined drug is counterfeit.

The European Commission said in 2008 “that an efficient traceability system for health products is crucial to combatting counterfeiting.” 


4. Fast (field) physico-chemical tools for drug analysis 

While these may not be strictly “anti-counterfeiting devices” (they do not protect authentic products), some tools can play a complementary role in strategies destined to fight against counterfeit drug trafficking by allowing quick verification of a product’s authenticity.

Here are the two main technologies available for a reliable and rapid out-of-laboratory product analysis.