The EFPIA project, launched last year in Sweden in collaboration with Siemens and Apoteket, applied 2D barcodes to 112,416 drug packs at 25 dispensing pharmacies across the capital Stockholm.
The results demonstrate that the system met its performance, availability and response times with the vast majority of scans were verified in less than two seconds.
The data also show that the exceptions, unexpected events that could indicate the detection of a counterfeit product, worked effectively and was able to group occurrences into likelihood groups for further analysis.
AstraZeneca CEO and EFPIA board member David Brennan said that: “This pilot has demonstrated that the proposed EFPIA model could offer a proportionate and cost-effective means to improve the security of medicines.”
Cheaper than RFID
Association spokesman Colin Mackay told in-Pharmatechnologist more about the cost of a wider adoption the approach, explaining it “would be considerably cheaper than full track-and-trace such as an RFID based system.”
Mackay said that for the hypothetical 'average ' pharmaceutical company the system would require €30m ($40.5m) in capital investment and a further €4m per year for operations.
For national databases, Mackay continued, the estimated investment is around €30m for capital expenditure to set up the technology and €45m a year in total operating expenses.
“For the industry, we are certain that a system which is robust, effective and affordable is much more likely to be taken up than a high-end, gold-plated solution.”
Unified, cross border approach
Mackay went to explain that, now the 2D barcode approach has been shown to work, the next step is to use the findings persuade governments and supply chain actors that this is a valid approach to anti-counterfeiting.
“Even if the technology works perfectly, it will be relatively ineffective if systems are not interoperable across borders, so that packs which move between countries are still checked at point of dispensing.
“So our wish would be to see agreement on interoperability as a starting point for the uptake of such a system, not myriad different national systems.”
He added that while there is no timeline for adoption of this or any other system, the problems of fake drugs in Europe is growing and “needs to be addressed, therefore we would like to see some system up and running as quickly as possible.”