Key insights on how to manage anti-counterfeiting and supply chain security

We share insights from our online event speakers to improve your anti-counterfeiting strategy

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Pharma IQ

Last week, we welcomed over 300 people to our Anti-Counterfeiting and Supply Chain Security webinar series to discuss practical strategies for address security gaps in the supply chain. In this article, we share three of the key takeaways from the series. 

Interconnected supply: The change you need to make to ensure security

David Ward, former Head of Procurement for Europe and Emerging Markets at Merck and Dr. Dieter Peters, former Executive VP of Global Product Supply at Grunenthal, have built up a wealth of experience across the full supply chain. In their panel, they analysed the value of an interconnected supply chain strategy to combat anti-counterfeiting, in particular looking into the human risk factor and supply chain security. 
Dieter shared that “there needs to be alignment across your company. You must have a secure, interconnected supply system which you monitor daily”. In his opinion, this is the foundation of an effective supply chain. 
David also agreed that continuous monitoring was key. As he put it you need to “constantly assess and reassess your supply chain”. Another critical factor is creating corporate competency and capabilities to actually address the issue of security.
He believes that to achieve competency you need to understand where the responsibility lies and who will take ownership of the project. He explains that “one of the biggest barriers to change is that either nobody knows who owns the change or they decide they don’t want to own it”. In David’s eyes, security is a cross-functional challenge not just an issue existing within the supply chain silo. It should be everybody’s challenge but it needs to be proactively led by a team with adequate resources and capabilities. 
Dieter echoes this point and believes that “if you do not have the full support from the executive board, then you will not have a chance”. For him, you need to work top down and bring people on board to build co-operation and cohesion on this task of security. He also shared that not every attempt at change will suceed. When faced with a failure, it is important to get to the root cause of the problem, understand what the barriers are which are halting progress and try again.
David offered a final piece of wisdom for the event attendees; “it’s time to own it. There is a danger that we see this as somebody else’s problem. Make it your problem so you can do something about it”. 

Why product quality should be a non-negotiable

During his webinar, Atholl Johnston, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at Queen Mary University, gave a comprehensive insight into the growing issue of substandard and falsified medicines within the supply chain. 
Although counterfeiting is a core issue in the industry, substandard medicines can be equally harmful to patients. Atholl believes that many of the quality issues we have seen in recent years have been driven by a desire to reduce costs.
Atholl points out that it is unavoidable to incur costs when maintaining high quality. However, he notes that the actual price difference between a good quality generic and a substandard formulation may be relatively small. But the lasting impact on a patient is substantial. As he explains, “you may save money by cutting quality, but what you get is not necessarily a safe or effective product”.
He believes that the core question to ask yourself is; “is quality mission critical?”. He points to the challenger disaster as an example. For a space shuttle launch costing hundreds of millions, the actual product failure which caused the crash was a minute fraction of the cost. perhaps we need to look across our production and source the low cost areas that could later become a serious issue without adequate investment.
To Atholl, vigilance is key for quality. As he explains, “if you don’t look you’re not going to see any problems related to efficacy and safety”. We must always keep in mind that when we fail to keep quality front of mind we risk patient safety. While good processing will pay dividends in terms of quality, there will be severe lasting impact to poor quality products, from lack of treatment, adverse reactions and even death. 
Atholl shared a quote from John Ruskin that supply chain professionals should endeavour to keep in mind, “quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort”. 

Implementing emerging technology to battle counterfeiting

In this session, Mark Willis, Author of 'Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals: Are U.S. Consumers Aware of the Potential Risks?', took a critical look at the viability of some of the emerging technology in the anti-counterfeiting space. 
In his opinion, serialization has been a baby step which is not yet truly helping to tackle the issue of counterfeiting at large. He foresees far greater potential with PCID tracer technology. 
Although, he is concerned that as we lack a global standard and a cohesive approach to counterfeiting, we will fail to generate impactful results. He does believe that when it comes to supply chain technology, the landscape is evolving at a rapid pace. As he puts it “we are in the infant phase [of anti-counterfeiting technology] and to be a front-runner at this point is a bold leap”. However, he does believe that companies should be exploring new types of technology early to ensure they don’t fall behind the trend when adoption starts to rise. 
One key techology consideration that he believes is crucial for the supply chain is to not think about technology within a silo. Mark offers a simple piece of advice “don’t make something so complicated that it affects patients being able to get hold of your drug”.
You might pursue a revolutionary piece of anti-counterfeiting technology but if the people along your supply chain can’t use it or if it’s too complex for the pharmacists then you will only negatively affect your drug getting to market. Instead, make sure that you consider the impact on all relevant stakeholders and keep usability in mind.