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The Use of Radio Frequency Identification ( RFID) to tackle the growing menace of counterfeit drugs

Manufacturers across the world have been constantly coming up with new strategies// and technologies to curb the proliferation of counterfeit drugs in the market.

Deputy director BK Karna of Indian Institute of Packaging says although pharma companies are trying to bring in novel features to prevent proliferation of duplicated drugs with new package designs such as child resistant closure and tamper evidence packaging they are yet to obtain cent percent cost-effective solutions.

The US FDA has recommended Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) as the best solution to tackle counterfeit drugs. Electronic Product Code (EPC) based RFID technology uses RFID tags affixed on cases/consignments and a serialized EPC for identification to facilitate detection and subsequent segregation of genuine and counterfeit drugs. They feel that RFID tracking would help to improve the supply chain and that companies will be able to maintain tighter control over legitimate shipments thereby preventing products from falling into the hands of counterfeiters.

Indian pharma companies should look at RFID soon for detection of counterfeit merchandise, product recall, arresting pilferage and shrinkage, enhanced supply chain efficiencies etc.,say officials in the field. Since the cost involved in the implementation of RFID is huge officials are of the opinion that pharma companies in India should make use of technologies such as optically variable pigments, magnetic inks, UV inks, fusion screens, encryption, 2 D barcode, water marks, security thread and laser printing. However they also say that instead of relying on RFID alone perhaps using a combination of various technologies would be ideal in India.

Factors that encourage counterfeiting include immediate returns, lack of appropriate drug legislation, absence or weak drug regulations, weak enforcement and the nature of trade where there are several intermediates. Thus officials say that a coordinated eff ort among pharma companies, packaging companies, machinery manufacturers, regulatory authorities and retailers are necessary to curtail this menace.
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