Mark Willis: Why we need to look beyond the term counterfeit

The Chair of the Anti-Counterfeiting Forum shares insight on the stand-out innovations in the field, ensuring value beyond compliance and the impact of falsified and sub-standard medicine

Add bookmark

Pharma IQ

This week, the Pharmaceutical Anti-Counterfeiting forum brought together pharmaceutical security experts to discuss the latest developments in the industry, how to secure patient safety against growing threats and how to increase collaboration for consistent results. 
Mark Willis, consultant at Willis QS chaired the event and told Pharma IQ his highlights. 
For Mark, one of the standout sessions was the reality statement delivered by Professor Atholl Johnston, Science Director at Analytical Services Internationals.  Although we have made progress in the industry, we are still finding increasing numbers of counterfeit, falsified or sub-standard medicines ending up with patients.  As Mark put it, “a common theme throughout Day 1 and Day 2 was the concept of are we just talking about counterfeits, are we talking falsified or are we talking sub-standard”. Counterfeit has been the buzzword as of late, but he sees it as a positive that “people are really starting to think beyond the terms of counterfeit” and consider how this impacts the supply chain and patient safety. 
RELATED: Hear more from Atholl Johnston at his session at our upcoming Anti-Counterfeiting and Supply Chain Security webinar series. Find out more.
Mark was keen to highlight the growing number of innovations shown at the event, on both the anti-counterfeiting side and through packaging and labelling. While it is always interesting to see what companies are developing, Mark thought we needed to give further attention to how we translate the technology into a direct impact and new practices. As Mark put it “that’s really where [the industry] needs to evolve to”.
When discussing the impediments to such progress, Mark commented that the industry itself is the biggest barrier to innovation. He said “we can’t get out of our own way. We don’t like working together, we like to keep things private”. He also commented that when you consider new technologies, such as Blockchain, “it sometimes feels like it has to be all or nothing”. 
Other delegates at the conference echoed the need to view anti-counterfeiting initiatives holistically, understanding how they build and complement each other. Small steps can lead to big improvements and through proper risk planning you can focus your efforts on key products, regions or processes rather than going all in. 
A key topic discussed was also the potential for value beyond compliance. Mark believes this is inevitable. As he put it “once the data starts coming in, especially if we are talking about complaints, recalls and refunds, that is where our value is”. 
For both refunds and recalls, he believes that this additional layer of visibility, for which product is where, will be a key differentiating factor to our efficiency. It will take the guess work out of our processes and allow for clear insight.
Mark also believes that if we explore blockchain or private networks for tracking products, then serialization will be vital to understanding the product flow, the active markets for our products and how we can better reach them. This will be an important long term benefit. 
When discussing the most important topics to keep abreast of in the industry, Mark drilled it down to; “where are the regulations advancing, what improvements need to be made and what technology is coming with it”. 
Globally, we are seeing more countries adopt anti-counterfeiting regulations and the uncertainty around what is coming next and whether the regulations will interlink is a concern for the industry. We may be looking at having to feed into different systems each with different requirements and different technology needed.
As Mark put it, “there might [also] be a difference between what we want to implement and what they’re going to accept”.
Mark believes that solution providers can play a bigger role is this and look to becoming true partners, not just providers, when tackling this issue. 
Mark also predicts that we’re going to need to increase collaboration between the industry and those doing the real heavy lifting; the pharmacies. At present, he’s not sure the majority are aware of the changes serialization has brought and how it will impact their work. For the industry to be effective with this new process, they will need to be brought up to speed and included in the process. Although, Mark did recognize that there are geo-political factors impacting progress, for example the number of chain pharmacies who have yet to implement serialization measures due to Brexit. 
RELATED: Join Mark at the upcoming Anti-Counterfeiting and Supply Chain Security online event. Hear his session on the latest anti-counterfeiting tech and how it could change your operations from the comfort of your own desk. Sign up now!