Four key qualities to look for in a brand protection partner

Cheryl Smith-Johnson, Authentix, tells us why integration, implementation and customization are critical for authentication partnerships

Pharma IQ

2008: A counterfeit version of the blood thinner herapin appears on the market. The active ingredient has been replaced with a cheaper substance, suspected to be the cause of up to 81 deaths resulting in a nationwide recall of the medication. The US-based firm behind the sales of herapin are subjected to 740 lawsuits. The company is eventually compelled to sell off the division that marketed the drug.

Counterfeit medicines are a serious problem for the pharmaceutical industry. Not only do they carry a serious financial cost, they also impact patients’ wellbeing and safety. 

The World Health Organization estimate that up to 30 per cent of the pharmaceuticals sold in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America are counterfeit products. With 10 per cent of all medicines worldwide estimated to be counterfeit. 

Many pharmaceutical companies are able to react to counterfeits in a timely and decisive manner. But, as with any crime, prevention is preferable to even the swiftest reaction. 

Prevention is an increasingly difficult task. In the US, almost 40 per cent of pharmaceuticals are manufactured elsewhere, with about 80 per cent of active ingredients imported. With consumers also turning to internet pharmacies for lower prices, regulation of drug safety is becoming more complex. Pharmaceutical products pass through a complex, globally-dispersed distribution network, making it far easier for counterfeits to enter the legitimate supply chain. Bad actors within the industry are also ready to match product packaging at speed and invest in staying one step ahead, drawn to the high profitability of counterfeit pharmaceutical products.

A company's brand protection team stands between the counterfeiters, patient safety and brand protection. In this complex battle though, it is not worth standing alone. A reputable authentication partner can help move a company from reactive to proactive, but it all depends on who you work alongside. 

There are four crucial factors to consider in the selection process for your next brand protection partner.


1. Are they willing to go beyond "off-the-shelf"

Each pharmaceutical company faces unique challenges, so it's key to find a partner who can customize a solution to fit individual needs. 

Look for a partner who offers: 

  • State-of-the-art color marking systems
  • Multi-layered security features
  • Monitoring and enforcement plans


2. Can they provide additional business intelligence?

A data analytics platform in addition to physical security can be a key differentiator for proactive decision making.

Look for a partner who can:

  • Aggregate and analyze data
  • Deliver insights directly to stakeholders via smartphones, tablets and computers
  • Utilizes the M3 (mark, montior and measure) process


3. Will there be a seamless integration?

Supply chains are high complex with many moving parts. A strong partner should be able to instantly integrate within that chain with a "third-party agnostic" solution. This type of partner will be able to analyze your supply chain, idenitfy potential problems and help to correct them.

Look for a partner with:

  • Third-part printers, logistic partner certificaiton and support
  • Integration with existing systems and manufacturers
  • Trial runs that provide actual samples for testing purposes/quality assurance


4. Are they ready to be a long-term implementation partner?

It's important to find a partner with extensive and documented experience in implementing a brand protection strategy. As counterfeiters continue to improve their efforts, a long-term partner can help you protect your products.

Look for a partner with:

  • Flexibility to expand and grow with your changing needs
  • Dedicated project management 
  • Ongoing reports and result interpretation to offer actionable insights


Tackling the issue of counterfeit medicine in the supply chain is not an easy task. To only way to tackle the problem of pharmaceutical counterfeiting is for all stakeholders involved - those within your company, third-party supply chain vendors and your authentication partner - to co-operate fully in designing and implementing effective authentication methods. 

Find out more about Authentix here.