It’s hard enough to detect errors in the entire process of manufacturing and distributing one’s own pharmaceutical products, but pharma companies must also address the challenge of counterfeit medications that at best are ineffective and at worst are deadly.1 Legitimate drugs can be diverted, or fake drugs can be created completely parallel with and invisible to your own supply chain, with their own distribution networks deliberately made complex to disguise them.2 Looking at the problem in its entirety can be overwhelming and frightening to pharma professionals and especially to consumers, who trust companies to provide them with safe and effective medications. Typical headlines illustrating the trend include: “Maryland Man Charged With Manufacturing And Selling Fake Xanax Since 2013,”3 “Fake paracetamol (aka Tylenol or acetaminophen) in Philippines,”4 “Police Seize Hundreds Of Thousands Of Fake Pills In South Carolina And Two Presses,”5 “The Motorcycle Gang Behind Philly’s Biggest Pill Mill,”6 and on and on. The culprits could be your neighbors or a criminal entity operating halfway around the world.
The challenge is to make the supply chain airtight, and the verification methods sound, so fakes can be identified easily. However, the gains from counterfeiting are so attractive, and the punishments often so light, that many criminals, including those trafficking illegal drugs, continue to devise new and more elaborate schemes to peddle their fake or stolen products.