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Holograms Can Help Reduce Pharmaceutical Counterfeit Problems

International Hologram Manufacturers Association (IHMA) : 25 October, 2010  (Technical Article)
With counterfeiting continuing to increase alarmingly in the pharmaceuticals industry, the IHMA provides details of how holograms are being used to help prevent counterfeit medicines reaching consumers
Holograms Can Help Reduce Pharmaceutical Counterfeit Problems
The trade body representing the global holographic industry says the pharmaceutical industry has to do a lot more in tackling counterfeit medicines.

The International Hologram Manufacturers Association (IHMA) was commenting on a joint survey by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and Pfizer which highlighted concerns among pharmacists over the global problem of counterfeit medicines.

It revealed almost two thirds (63%) of 2,000 community, retail and hospital pharmacists surveyed in Europe, the US and Australia believe current policies and technology are insufficient to deal with counterfeit medicines.

Sixty one per cent of those surveyed also said that the prevalence of counterfeit medication is a serious issue in their country.

The IHMA says that statistics paint an alarming picture when it comes to pharmaceutical counterfeiting not only in developing markets but also mature sectors.

The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 25% of the medicines consumed in some developing countries are counterfeit or substandard and that annual earnings from the global sales of fake and substandard medicines are over $32 billion.

Ian Lancaster, IHMA general secretary, said that counterfeiting is not only a serious threat to the pharmaceutical industry but puts people's lives and health at risk and more has to be done to tackle the problem

"The survey clearly shows that pharmacists feel more has to be done about tackling the counterfeiters and ensuring patients receive safe, effective and bonafide medicines.

"One of the key challenges is for manufacturers and producers to stay ahead of the counterfeiters and here holograms can, and indeed are, playing a key role in combating criminal activity."

Holograms offer huge security value and IHMA members have dedicated considerable resources in developing optically variable security features incorporating advanced holographic technology.

Ian Lancaster added: "Holograms work best where the packaging remains with the unit dose - almost everywhere except the US - and when they are regionalised for a specific market. (In the US pharmacists don't usually have access to the original unit-dose packaging and the bulk packs they purchase almost never have holograms.)

Holograms can now combine authentication overt features with covert elements and forensic and track and trace elements to provide a highly effective weapon in the fight against illicit products, said Ian Lancaster. And they can be used as seals, labels or as the foil in a blister pack.

He added that there are examples of how holograms provide a successful and vital detection function in pharmaceutical anti-counterfeiting strategies.

Many branded medicines have a hologram on the pack or in the blister pack, and a few years ago Malaysia introduced its Meditag® serialised hologram label to be found on all registered medicines - traditional and western - which has helped the Ministry of Health inspectors to detect unauthorised and counterfeit product.

"The evolving anti-counterfeiting role of holograms lies in their ability to combine authentication with detection," said Ian Lancaster. "And sometimes pack enhancement, as Rodotex GmbH has shown with its packaging for Vitamin C+Kollagen in Indonesia.

"This is why the more enlightened pharmaceuticals companies and enforcement agencies continue to make them an integral part of modern anti-counterfeiting strategies."
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