New medicine coding system to help address the growing risk of counterfeit medicines

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, the ‘voice of the research-based pharmaceutical industry in Europe’, today unveiled its pilot project to verify medicines and help reduce the risk of counterfeit medicines being dispensed to patients.

The verification system is being piloted in conjunction with project partners Apoteket AB, the Swedish pharmaceutical retailer, and local wholesalers Tamro & Oriola-KD.

Using a small data matrix – similar to a barcode – to individually number each pack of medicine, the system can provide the pharmacist with an almost instantaneous verification of whether that pack has been dispensed previously. A confirmation will immediately alert them to the risk that the pack might be counterfeit.

Brian Ager, Director General of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), said, ‘This EFPIA 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 continued: ‘Individual product verification will not provide a complete solution to the challenge of counterfeit medicines. Nevertheless, 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.’

Mr Stefan Carlsson, CEO of Apoteket AB, added, ‘We recognise that both pharmacists and patients need to have confidence in the medical supply chain, which is why we were willing to be involved at the outset.’ Mr Carlsson added, ‘Our pharmacists’ initial experience with the system confirms its ease of use, with no significant delays for patients. It offers an accessible and inclusive method of addressing the pharmacist’s role in providing product verification.’

The EFPIA system is being trialled in 25 retail pharmacies in and around Stockholm and will verify more than 100,000 products. The data matrix, smaller than a fingernail, can contain enough data to individually code each pack of medicine with information including the product code, batch number, expiry date and a unique, randomized serial number that identifies packs individually. It is expected to run until late November. The system is part of EFPIA’s response to the European Commission’s proposal for a mass serialization of medicinal products as part of a series of measures to better protect EU citizens from the serious threats posed by counterfeit medicines. EFPIA hopes the system can offer the basis for a cost-effective, harmonized and interoperable system across Member States. This will help reduce the risk of a proliferation of incompatible national systems and help ensure product verification for medicines, wherever they are dispensed within the EU.

For further information on the Coding & Identification project, please see the Coding & Identification page on the EFPIA website.

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