29 March 2007
Drugs supplier AstraZeneca is to introduce new technology to protect its products from counterfeiting and tampering.
The company will launch the "Serialized authentication program" next month. It comprises tamper-evident seals and unique carton numbers that will allow products to be authenticated at every point of the supply chain.
This follows January's announcement that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is investigating twice the number of fake drugs as five years ago (News focus, 18 January)
David Teale, director of product security at AstraZeneca, could not give SM an exact cost of the project but said it was in the "tens of millions". Manufacturing capital raised especially for the technology will fund the project and costs will not be passed on to buyers, such as the NHS.
The technology will be launched for the drug Nexium and a risk assessment will determine the order in which other products should follow. The security features will be applied to all of the company's new products.
Teale said it was working with government agencies and other pharmaceutical firms to develop a common system for authentication.
He denied it would have been better to wait for an agreed system before AstraZeneca rolled out its own, claiming it could easily be adapted to meet any agreed standards.
Teale added: "We decided that unless we made a move to introduce secure supplies, we would still just be talking about this in two years' time."