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Today – February 9, 2019 – the Falsified Medicines Directive 2011/62/EU has come into effect. It requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide secondary packaging of prescription medicines with an individual serial number as a 2D code for identification, plus a tamper-evident feature proving that the packaging is intact. This requirement is intended to stop illegal trading of falsified medicines.

Falsified medicines are a lucrative business for criminals. According to the “Pharmaceutical Crime: A Growth Market” research report published by the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in October 2016, one kilogram of the counterfeit version of a well-known potency-enhancing drug sells for 90,000 euros on average, whereas the price of cocaine is estimated at “merely” 65,000 euros. The serialization of packaging, complemented by anti-counterfeiting labels, helps stop this illegal trade.

Incidents of medicine counterfeiting increasingly often make the headlines – particularly when customs authorities achieve a major coup. In September 2017, German customs confiscated 950 parcels with 68,000 falsified pills and vials at only three parcel centers within a single week. An anonymized survey revealed that one in eight physicians has at one time or another held a counterfeit in his/her hand, and even six in 500 pharmacists have. One in seven counterfeits comes from a pharmacy in another EU country.

Mid-October, some 500 tons of fake medicines were confiscated in international raids. They included ineffective potency-enhancing drugs, pain killers and dietary supplements as well as counterfeit cancer drugs. According to Interpol, 116 countries were involved in the operation and 850 suspects arrested. This again shows the importance of tamper-proof packaging. An EU Directive-compliant closure seal provides an effective solution.

Often the less conspicuous a closure seal appears on medicinal packaging the more sophisticated the security technology it contains. Effects that are both conspicuous and unequivocal will only emerge when an informed expert authenticates the seal, like in the case of LumiSecure: Illumination by a special light makes colors on the label visible that can be clearly verified and thus indicate the authenticity of the packaged medicine.

Stolen, repackaged, illegally refilled and relabeled: Whether or not a medicine is a copy is often not readily visible. Many counterfeiters have perfected their skills so that even customs and police officers can be deceived. The inconspicuous Covert-Hologram Seal seems to be easy to fake – but when it is opened an effect emerges that no counterfeiter expects.

Counterfeiting and tampering threaten all well-known brands today. At the GLOBAL BRAND PROTECTION INNOVATION PROGRAMME (GBPIP) held in London this week on May 26-27, more than 100 experts are engaged in an exchange about innovative authenticity protection solutions that enable tamper- and counterfeit-proof marking of products. They include Dr. Nadine Summa from Schreiner MediPharm , and Thomas Völcker and André Siebeneicher from Schreiner ProSecure .