ASPA and Messe Frankfurt India united senior leaders and industry experts for a panel discussion on “Protecting the lives and pharmaceutical supply chain during COVID-19” at The Authentication Forum webinar on 11 June 2021. Setting up an authentication & traceability eco-system and stringent imposition of a regulatory framework is crucial to deal with the menace of falsified medicines, the experts conveyed.
With the rising demand for medicines and pharmaceutical equipment to tackle Covid-19, instances of sub-standard, spurious, falsely labeled, falsified, and counterfeit medical products (SSFFC) have significantly escalated, threatening consumer health and health jeopardizing public trust towards the healthcare system. “Every year, the global pharmaceutical supply chain loses USD 200 billion in revenue due to counterfeited drugs and other spurious pharmaceutical products,” stated Nakul Pasricha, president, ASPA (Authentication Service Providers’ Association)
Further in his welcome note, Nakul Pasricha provided an overview of the counterfeiting issue in India, some recent incidents of counterfeiting, and the role of authentication solutions in combating this menace. On behalf of all ASPA members, he also paid tribute to U K Gupta, Suresh Sati, and Urvinder Singh, three pillars of the industry that recently passed away.
“There is a need for an ongoing focus on building and nurturing authentication eco-systems in the country, and as an industry association, we are committed to that. The involvement and active participation of all stakeholders is extremely crucial in this, as a lot of awareness is required at the industry, government, and consumer level.” he shared.
To highlight solutions against the illicit practice of SSFFC, ASPA, and Messe Frankfurt, India recently organized a panel discussion between senior industry leaders, regulatory officers, and experts from the pharma sector. Commenting on the initiative, Raj Manek, Executive Director and Board Member, Messe Frankfurt Asia Holdings, shared: “‘The Authentication Forum’ webinar led to the derivation of some insightful ideas and resolute measures to deal with counterfeiting in the pharmaceutical industry.”
During the discussion, Dr Praveen Gedam, IAS, Additional CEO, National Health Authority (NHA), elaborated on the possible benefits of a comprehensive drug registry: “The NHA is in talks with Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) to create a drug registry for India. A comprehensive registry can help to track drugs and monitor pharmaceutical supply chains. This will not only provide consumers more choice in terms of selecting different drugs but also help us trace the origin of a particular SKU and keep proper checks on those engaged in counterfeiting.”
Further continuing the session, Dr K Bangarurajan, Advisor, CDSCO (Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation), shared about the initiatives undertaken by CDSCO to keep a tight check on counterfeiting acts: “CDSCO has taken various actions to regulate the movement of the spurious drugs in India, such as setting up of additional drug testing laboratories both at Central and State level, strengthening regulatory measures by increasing the manpower. We have also provided additional laboratory equipment to the existing laboratories and set up special courts in all states to prosecute the offenders under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.”
Panelists at ASPA discuss implementation of serialization
During the webinar, the panelists also discussed the implementation of serialization of pharma packaging in India to create a more systematic and secure supply chain. “In many countries that import pharmaceuticals from India, serialization is a key criterion, and most of the Indian manufacturers abide by these norms.
However, in India, serialization has not yet been adopted because a majority of pharmaceutical companies still rely on the old infrastructure. It calls for complete packaging line automation – we are doing it for exports and should also aim to implement it in our domestic market to create a strong track and trace system.” shared Prabir Das, SME, Pharma Packaging.
Further emphasizing the importance of traceability, Subrato Dey, DGM, Industry Engagement, GS1 India, added: “It is very important to create a strong end-to-end visibility and employ a strong track and trace system to make the supply chain secure from counterfeiters. Serialization of pharmaceuticals is still a challenge in India; however, we need to start somewhere. Setting track and trace at least on the secondary and tertiary level will be a great stride towards this objective.”
ePharmacies have witnessed a strong surge due to the pandemic-induced lockdowns and restrictions in place; however, the threat of procuring spurious products still remains. Addressing this issue, Gaurav Bhatia, general manager – Supply Chain, Reliance Retail – Pharma, shared: “ePharmacies form an intermediate node that links the pharmaceutical manufacturer with the consumer. Since e-pharmacies employ registered pharmacists, setting up a mechanism where these pharmacists could verify and authenticate each stock will play an effective role in filtering the spurious products from the supply chain.”
While most counterfeit offenses are non-bailable, the increasing number of counterfeiters every year demands a more stringent response from the regulatory authorities, which means a swifter mechanism to identify and prosecute counterfeiters along with the imposition of heavier penalties. Messe Frankfurt India and ASPA will continue to provide a platform to discuss anti-counterfeiting measures across the industry through the next edition of The Authentication Forum.