The Importance of Track-and-Trace and Product Verification in the Pharmaceutical Industry

In a recent article from the Wall Street Journal’s Logistics Report, Andrew Stevens, a Research Director at Gartner, Inc., urged supply-chain providers to develop and adopt solutions that can combat the $200 billion counterfeit pharmaceutical industry.

Counterfeiters producing fake pharmaceuticals have developed sophisticated techniques to replicate the appearance of pills and packaging, tricking consumers into thinking that their products are made by legitimate, registered companies. Stevens further warns that some counterfeiters “even can mimic IT verification web portals used by manufacturers.” Although Stevens recognizes counterfeiter’s ability to stay keep up with brand protection trends, he believes that track-and-trace and product verification are two important ways to curtail the counterfeit pharmaceutical industry.

Stevens’s article appeared just after INTERPOL executed Operation Pangea VIII. From June 9-16, 115 countries and 236 agencies participated in a worldwide effort to combat the sale of illegal medicines online. As a result of the operation, a record 20.7 million fake and illicit medicines worth over $81 million were seized. These fake and illicit medicines included blood pressure medication, erectile dysfunction pills, cancer medication and nutritional supplements. Operation Pangea VIII also resulted in 2,410 websites related to the selling illegal and illicit medicines being taken offline.

Serialization techniques like track-and-trace and consumer-level product verification allow pharmaceutical companies to monitor their products across the entire supply chain, from manufacture to consumption. As a result, pharmaceutical companies can have transparency on their shipments, make sure that their products are not stolen and sold illegally, and help consumers ensure that they only buy genuine medicine from legitimate, registered companies.

Stevens concludes the article by stating that “product integrity, quality and full end-to-end supply chain traceability are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but becoming a prerequisite for both industry and consumers alike.” As an experienced service provider for brand protection solutions, we completely agree. Our award-winning Mobile Product Authentication™ (MPA™) and Cascading Authentication™ track-and-trace solutions have been supporting the brand protection initiatives of both large multi-national pharmaceutical companies and local pharmaceutical businesses. Our solutions also protect products across other industries, as we work with businesses around the world including electrical goods, FMCG, and automotive companies.

What other solutions can pharmaceutical companies use to curtail the counterfeit pharmaceutical industry? Please let us know in the comments.

Counterfeit Liquor and its Effects

Recently, the BBC reported that over over 100 people in India died as a result of ingesting fake liquor. The source of the manufactured substandard liquor has yet to be identified, but this incident highlights a growing problem in the country. Many poor residents choose cheaper products and thus end up consuming substandard liquor, which can be laced with dangerous chemicals to give it its kick. This can result in extreme health issues such as blindness and can even lead to death.

According to the BBC, India has witnessed a number of cases where people have died from fake liquor:

  • Nearly 170 people died in 2011 in the eastern state of West Bengal
  • At least 30 people were killed in Uttar Pradesh in September 2009
  • More than 100 people were killed in Gujarat in July 2009

alcohol_beer_bottle_273252

The situation is not unique to India. Last year, in Kenya, dozens of people died from illegal brew. In the UK, holiday seasons see a rise in fake liquors like vodka.

What can be done to combat illegal liquor sales?

Consumer Education: Consumers need to be made aware of the dangers of consuming products that are not approved by the food and drug safety organizations within their country. Online resources like Drink Aware can help consumers be vigilant about the products they purchase. Alcohol companies should also provide consumer education resources to protect and empower their customers.

Law Enforcement: Government must be proactive and reactive. Laws should be in place to discourage counterfeiting and enforcement must be consistent. When caught, perpetrators must be subjected to strong laws that serve as a warning for others not to dabble in illegal business. There must also be a conscious effort on the part of the food and drug safety organizations to follow up on the enforcement of the law to deal appropriately with criminals.

Serialization: Although many legitimate liquor companies have a serialization strategy, if this is enforced as a standard and stores are not allowed to sell products without a serial number, then it may enable the food and safety organizations weed out the substandard products from the market.

What are other solutions to solve the problem of fakes? Leave a comment about it.

Note: This blogpost serves to educate readers about the dangers of fake products such as alcohol as a means to empower readers to make more informed purchasing decisions. This post is not taking a stance on general alcohol consumption. For any questions or concerns, please email team@sproxil.com

 

Sproxil Selected for the Social Innovation in Health Initiative Program

Tuberculosis and Malaria affects over 3 billion people globally. These diseases have been largely neglected for a long time till recently. Numerous organizations are partnering to eradicate these diseases completely from the countries they still exist in.

The Social Innovation in Health Initiative is an international collaboration between the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town, the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University and TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, hosted at the World Health Organization in Geneva. SIHI selected Sproxil as an innovative organization creatively employing technology to tackle aspects of eradicating these tropical diseases.

The SIHI program selected Sproxil and the other 24 organizations because they believe the healthcare and social innovation communities can learn much from the unique case studies each company has undergone. For more information on the Social Innovation in Health Initiative program, check out their website here http://healthinnovationproject.org

social innovation health initiative

Image Source : http://healthinnovationproject.org

The Pharma Hack

Last week, while looking at various restaurant websites and trying to decide where to order takeout, I noticed that one restaurant’s website displayed links to buy various pharmaceuticals. The restaurant itself does not conduct any business selling pharmaceuticals, yet its website is marketing pharmaceuticals. This strange mismatch is probably the work of the infamous Pharma Hack.

The Pharma Hack is a scheme to drive search engine rankings of illegitimate online pharmacies’ websites by taking advantage of legitimate SEO practices, thus increasing the likelihood that searchers will visit their websites and purchase their products. To do this, hackers place links to the illegitimate online pharmacies on other websites. The links can be placed on the website for viewers to click (just like the restaurant’s website) or can be hidden in the website code. In either case, the links are always visible to search engine crawlers. Since the number of times a website’s link appears on other websites factors into how search engines rank results, illegitimate online pharmacies’ websites achieve higher rankings and resultantly are more likely to be visited by searchers. Furthermore, hackers can manipulate links to illegitimate pharmacies to appear as title tags under an external website’s search result, potentially duping searchers into thinking that they have been directed to one website when they have actually been redirected to an illegitimate online pharmacy’s website.

Although online pharmacies boast cheaper prices for pharmaceuticals than regular pharmacies and maintain the confidentiality that some patients desire, most are not in the consumers’ best interests. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has reviewed more than 11,000 online pharmacies and found that 96% “appear to be operating in conflict with pharmacy laws and practice standards.” In addition, online pharmacies are often outlets for counterfeit pharmaceuticals, which contain the incorrect amount of active ingredients (if present at all) as well as fillers that range in toxicity from cornstarch to rat poison.

While legitimate online pharmacies do exist, it can be very difficult to find them amongst the sea of fake sites. A previous Sproxil blog post highlighted how to spot illegitimate online pharmacies, but as depicted by the Pharma Hack, fake online pharmacies are always discovering ways to appear legitimate. Remember, just because an online pharmacy has a high search engine ranking, does not mean that it is a legitimate website.

What other hacks have you seen counterfeiters use to dupe consumers online? Tell us in the comments section.

Three Ingredients That Can Increase Brand Equity

While a brand’s success is dependent on many factors, one of the most important considerations is the brand’s ability communicate to customers and potential customers in a memorable and impactful way. A company must consider branding strategies that would resonate with its current market but can evolve and remain culturally relevant. This is no easy feat: some companies have large, creative powerhouses within the organization that focus solely on making the brand relevant and others do not have the capability in house and must tap into external expertise. While both methods can be effective, companies must consider  maintaining strong brand equity includes these key ingredients:

Small Data – Today, having a keen understanding of your consumers’ preferences and behaviors and tailoring your products or services to meet those needs is standard. Making each customer interaction feel personalized and unique can set you apart from your competitors. While big picture trends are important to understand, it is also important to collect small data about your consumers as often as possible so that you can interact in a way that’s most meaningful and personalized to them. For example, learning that a potential customer has done research on products like yours, gone through your website, and went so far as to place a product in your e-cart gives you an opportunity to win them over. Perhaps you send them a friendly reminder email and a coupon to use in order to persuade them to make a purchase. This could be the difference between a sale or a forgotten cart.

Consistency – Customers are drawn to a consistent and strong brand image. Consider Apple. Everyone can quickly recognize the logo, its devices, and its UI – the brand’s look is consistent. When Apple comes out with a new device or technology, their standards for design and focus on the user also remain consistent. This consistency and dedication to their brand image reflect their values as a company. These values, when aligned with the values of its customers can create brand advocates. Additionally, when a brand is also consistent with its communication, it creates expectations of how people can interact and engage with that brand. When it is inconsistent, it can create confusion, which can lead to negative experiences. Brand message consistency should also remain amidst any crisis. During a negative, brand impacting event, maintaining a consistent message can reaffirm trust toward a brand. (We wrote a blogpost previously on how to handle a brand during a crisis.)

Quality – Developing a successful branding strategy without focusing on the quality of the product is fruitless. If the quality promised by the brand do not match the actual quality of the product, consumer expectations are not met and they are less likely to trust the brand. Missed expectations can create poor word of mouth, leading to a bad reputation. Today, word of mouth is more important than ever. We live in a peer-review based society where word of mouth can be stronger than any advertising campaign. By creating quality products, you create brand advocates. Brand advocates serve as powerful, free marketing for your brand. Brand advocates can also be created through loyalty and rewards programs that provide incentives for purchases. That said, loyalty programs for poor quality products cannot sustain itself. Thus, the focus of product quality must not be lost when considering your branding strategy.

The three ingredients above are just some of the many factors that play into a brand’s ability to set itself apart from competitors. What would you include in your recipe for brand equity success?

To learn more about how Sproxil can help increase your brand equity, send an email to team@sproxil.com

recipe for brand equity success

 

 

Improving Anti-Counterfeiting Efforts in Emerging Markets through Private-Public Partnerships

This past weekend, Dr. Paul Orhii, Director General of Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), announced that the agency has confiscated counterfeit drugs and foods worth NGN 27 billion (approximately US $135 million) in the past five years. Government agencies play a crucial role in reducing the amount of counterfeit goods, but it is especially difficult for government agencies in emerging markets such as Nigeria where counterfeiting is more prevalent and the technological resources and regulatory enforcement are limited. How can partnerships further improve anti-counterfeiting efforts in emerging markets?

Private-public partnerships between anti-counterfeiting solution providers and the government can have a strong impact on addressing social issues. Each party plays a valuable role in working toward the greater goal: the government has regulatory power and local knowledge, while solution providers have technologies and products to which the government otherwise may not otherwise have access. Through such partnerships, both solution providers and the government can compound their strengths to have greater success with taking action against counterfeiters and engaging other businesses and the public to support anti-counterfeiting efforts.

One such example is the World Customs Organization’s (WCO) IPM global network of track & trace and authentication solutions. Through this initiative, Sproxil and other solution providers can facilitate communication with their clients and customs officers in real-time in order to more easily identify and seize counterfeit goods.

Another example is Sproxil’s partnership with NAFDAC, who endorsed Sproxil’s Mobile Product Authentication™ (MPA™) (generically termed Mobile Authentication Service or MAS) before it was even deployed in the country. From the success of the service, NAFDAC issued a drug safety mandate requiring all antimalarial drugs to be protected by a MAS. Sproxil was the first provider to be approved.

The WCO’s IPM Network and public-private partnerships such as that between Sproxil and NAFDAC are great examples of how business and government can join together to improve the lives of citizens. Through these concerted efforts, citizens are protected from harmful counterfeit goods and counterfeiting becomes less profitable.

How else can partnerships improve anti-counterfeiting efforts in emerging markets?

The Influence of Data in the Pharmaceutical Industry

The success of the pharmaceutical industry can be considered a gift or a curse. It is a gift because it means the industry is doing well and providing products that help patients manage their wellness and health. On the other hand, success may hide data that can lend itself to improvements for drug efficacy and safety.

Data is a great asset to the pharmaceutical industry because it enables these companies operate at a higher level of efficiency than they normally would. Our CEO, Dr Ashifi Gogo, recently published an article discussing the effects of small data on business decision making. This article touched on the benefits of acquiring small data and combining it with big data to make strategic business decisions. Read more of the article at the World Economic Forum (WEF) blog. Data, whether big or small, can make a big impact on any business if leveraged properly.

Some benefits of data for pharma:

  • Data helps pharmaceutical companies target certain populations more effectively for specific products or product ranges. Collecting the data of purchase patterns of the consumers buying the products could help the pharmaceutical companies form marketing personas of their target population that can improve the way they communicate to patients.
  • Data also provides better insights to patient behaviours, which helps pharmaceutical companies optimize their healthcare delivery services.

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  • Data enables pharmaceutical companies to improve clinical trials in their research and development department. The data collected would help identify the appropriate demographic of people that would best match the type of patients who would benefit from the drugs.

The relevance of data in the pharmaceutical industry is growing at an exponential rate and now is the best time for pharmaceutical companies to take advantage of it. Through patient engagement, Sproxil acquires small data that enables pharmaceutical companies make strategic decisions for their businesses such as product delivery and protection and supply chain management. If you would like to learn more about how this works, send an email to team@sproxil.com 

How are you using data to drive your decision-making process at your organization?

Health Innovation Round Up: May

Smart Pill Bottle
This is medical innovation at its finest: the smart pill bottle. Several solutions to poor medication adherence have been limited in their success. Thanks to technology, we now have a smart pill bottle that can improve and track adherence by sending timely reminders to patients. The bottle is synced with the patient’s phone and sends automated text messages or a recorded phone message reminder when their medicine has not been taken. The bottle also glows red and beeps to remind patients to take their medicine. Read More about the smart pill bottle here

AdhereTech-smart-bottle

Image Source : Health Tech Insider

 

Socks for Diabetes Patients
Wearable tech is all the rave in the healthcare industry these days and for great reasons. Several tech companies are focused on developing interesting ways to address problem areas in healthcare. One example is a pair of socks for Diabetes patients. Due to the nature of Diabetes, patients have experienced losing the ability to feel things on their feet or sense disruptions in their nervous system. Now, an innovative pair of socks can alerts patients when too much pressure is applied to a particular part of the foot, prompting them to change positions. Read more about the socks that prevents Diabetes-related damage.

Image Source : Health Tech Insider

Image Source : Health Tech Insider

Contacts for Diabetes Patients
While this innovation is yet to hit the mainstream market, it promises to provide a great solution for Diabetic patients. By wearing a special pair of contact lenses that are synced to a smart phone, patients and their health care providers are able to monitor the patient’s glucose levels in real time. Once the glucose level is nearing it’s threshold, both the patient and her doctor are alerted. The patient is made more aware of her current state and can take action to get her glucose back to normal levels.

Image Source: Health Tech Insider

Image Source: Health Tech Insider

What is Track and Trace?

Think about the last time you ordered something to be shipped to you. Most times you received a tracking number, allowing you to see exactly where your shipment is at every stage of its journey. This insight not only gives you a better understanding of the logistics process for your package, it also allows you to feel more in control of the situation. The same concept can be applied for businesses.

A track and trace system allows you to determine the current and past locations of products as they move down the supply chain. With serialization, each shipment is an identifiable unit that one can follow throughout its course and see its history. A unique identifier, which you can think of as a tracking number, is associated with each product or batch and can take a variety of formats including bar code, QR code, data matrix, or text. Through this unique identification system, track and trace allows businesses to have oversight and transparency across their supply chain, helping prevent product compromise, theft, insertion of fake products amongst the genuine versions, and other consumer or business-impacting problems.

barcode serialization track and trace

For some sectors, like the pharmaceutical industry, implementing a track and trace solution is a requirement. However, aside from compliance, having proper supply chain oversight through a track and trace system allows a business to:

  • identify when product theft occurs
  • identify when products or shipments get compromised, due to environmental changes, damage, or by malicious intent (such as someone placing counterfeit versions
  • obtain data that can help make distribution protocols stronger and more efficient
  • be more proactive about addressing performance issues such as delays
  • improve profit by reducing loss and optimizing processes
  • ensure the safety and quality of products delivered, even facilitating rapid product recalls if needed

Track and trace systems can also be integrated with a consumer-facing product verification tool, which allows manufacturers and distributors to get insight on product demand, purchasing trends, and even individual behavior.

Product Delivery process

With Sproxil’s track and trace system, only trusted, authorized agents can verify products at specific checkpoints using a variety of devices including scanners, customized mobile apps, or other communication equipment. The data from the verifications is displayed in a proprietary, web-based data visualization portal, allowing for real-time supply chain oversight and data analysis. The system can be easily streamlined into any current supply chain systems, from the straight-forward, local supply chain to complex, multi-national distribution.

If you would like to know more about creative ways to implement a track and trace system into your current supply chain, send us an email at team@sproxil.com

track and trace solution

Sproxil Awarded Frost & Sullivan’s Enabling Technology Leadership Award

Sproxil Awarded Frost & Sullivan’s Enabling Technology Leadership Award

Honored for its Pharmaceutical Anti-Counterfeiting

Value Added Services in East & West Africa

Cambridge, MA (May 6, 2015)Sproxil®, a leading provider of world-class brand protection for emerging markets, has received the 2015 Enabling Technology Leadership Award from Frost & Sullivan’s Best Practices Recognition program. The honor recognizes Sproxil’s work combating counterfeit pharmaceutical products and creating innovative, value-added services (VAS) in East and West Africa. The award followed a comprehensive market evaluation process that identified, analyzed, research, and ranked companies based on technology leverage and customer impact criteria.

Sproxil, best known for its anti-counterfeiting tool Mobile Product Authentication™ (MPA™), successfully expanded its product line by offering other comprehensive brand protection services, including track and trace, marketing communication and loyalty rewards, market insight, and supply chain consulting. In addition to the company’s application diversity, its focus on strategic partnerships, strong service delivery, and commitment to client relationships have made Sproxil a principal player in the pharmaceutical anti-counterfeiting VAS space.

“We’re grateful to Frost & Sullivan for recognizing the value and importance of our efforts to continue creating tangible value for patients and the pharmaceutical industry,” states Richard Rajwayi, who oversees operations at Sproxil East Africa Limited. “This type of prestigious recognition is rewarding for us, and more importantly, affirms our competitive differentiation and position as a market leader and innovator.”

In addition to its widespread adoption by leading pharmaceutical companies, Sproxil works with manufacturers and distributors across a variety of industries including personal care, electrical cabling, agribusiness, automotive aftermarket parts, and home goods.

Frost & Sullivan will be holding their Excellence in Best Practices Awards Banquet in May 2015 in London to recognize Sproxil and other Best Practices Award winners across 15 categories. The event follows their Growth Innovation and Leadership (GIL) event, an annual meeting that brings together a global network of today’s best thinkers, visionaries, and thought leaders to learn how to leverage innovation as a resource for addressing global challenges.

About MPA   

MPA empowers consumers to avoid counterfeit products like fake medicine by using two well-established technologies in emerging markets: mobile (cellular) phones and scratch cards. The technology is simple to use and can be accessed by any mobile phone, including feature phones. Before purchasing a product, consumers scratch a special security label to reveal a unique, one-time use code. They then SMS text the code to Sproxil’s secure number, which is provided on the product package. Within seconds, the company notifies the end user, via SMS, of the result. Alternatively, end users can verify using Sproxil’s iOS, Android, and Blackberry mobile apps, by web, or through the company’s call center to get results in their local language. The company provides the most channels for consumers to verify product genuineness instantly. The MPA solution has processed over 15 million product verifications, making it by far the most widely used solution of its kind.

 

About Sproxil

Sproxil® is a social enterprise that provides award-winning brand protection and mobile marketing services in high growth markets. The Company has been recognized globally for its efforts against counterfeiting and is endorsed by regulatory bodies in Nigeria and Kenya. Sproxil received the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 2013 Patents for Humanity Award in Information Technology, the 2010 IBM SmartCamp Boston Award and the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative Outstanding Commitment Award. In 2013, Sproxil was named the most innovative company in health care and #7 overall by Fast Company Magazine. Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, Sproxil has operations in India, Ghana, Kenya, Pakistan and Nigeria, with the ability to execute projects on six major continents. For more information and a full list of Sproxil’s solution suite, please visit Sproxil.

 

About Frost & Sullivan

Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, works in collaboration with clients to leverage visionary innovation that addresses the global challenges and related growth opportunities that will make or break today’s market participants.

Our “Growth Partnership” supports clients by addressing these opportunities and incorporating two key elements driving visionary innovation: The Integrated Value Proposition and The Partnership Infrastructure.

  • The Integrated Value Proposition provides support to our clients throughout all phases of their journey to visionary innovation including: research, analysis, strategy, vision, innovation and implementation.
  • The Partnership Infrastructure is entirely unique as it constructs the foundation upon which visionary innovation becomes possible. This includes our 360 degree research, comprehensive industry coverage, career best practices as well as our global footprint of more than 40 offices.

For more than 50 years, we have been developing growth strategies for the global 1000, emerging businesses, the public sector and the investment community. Is your organization prepared for the next profound wave of industry convergence, disruptive technologies, increasing competitive intensity, Mega Trends, breakthrough best practices, changing customer dynamics and emerging economies?

 

 

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Jeff Loucks

PR Manager, Sproxil