Counterfeit prescription drugs have become an exploding industry October 31th, 2018

Counterfeit prescription drugs have become an exploding industry

Pharma fraud is a term that describes several illegal activities involving the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of pharmaceuticals. One of these activities involves counterfeit prescription of medication.

What is counterfeit medication?

A counterfeit medication is a product that is deceiving regarding its origin, authenticity, or effectiveness. “A counterfeit drug may contain inappropriate quantities of active ingredients, or none, may be improperly processed within the body, may contain ingredients that are not on the label, or may be supplied with inaccurate or fake packaging and labelling.” Fake birth control pills, cough syrup for children that contain a powerful opioid, antimalarial pills that are actually just made of potato and corn-starch; these are just a few examples of counterfeit medication, according to the World Health Organization.

The numbers speak for themselves

The statistics around the counterfeit medicines show the magnitude of this important matter.

  • 10% of the world’s medicines are counterfeit
  • 50% of cases, medicines purchased over the Internet from illegal sites have found to be counterfeit
  • 5 million counterfeit medicines retained by European Customs Authorities

Statistics show that the number of pharmaceutical counterfeits has increased dramatically over the past years. Specifically, in 2002 there were 196 incidents reported by Pharmaceutical Security Institute, whereas in 2017 there were more than 3500 incidents.

What is the Falsified Medicines Directory (FDM)?

The EU Falsified Medicine Directory is system in place since 2011 to detect falsified medicines. The FMD requires medicines to be uniquely serialised, protected by tamper-proof seals and their authenticity verified before being dispensed to patients. This can be achieved through scanning a barcode on the pack of medicine and a check being completed against a database, identified in the legislation as a Repository System.

2D Barcode scanners for a safer healthcare system

Since the FDM has been in place, over 6,000 pharmaceutical manufacturers must serialize and make tamper proof roughly 10 billion packs of prescription medicines that are dispensed every year across Europe. On top of this, more than 175,000 retail pharmacies and thousands of other dispensing points in all 28-member states must have a system to verify the authenticity of medicines. Wholesalers must also have a system in place to check medicines on a risk-based approach. This system can simply be a 2D barcode scanner, which verifies each individual pack. This way manufacturers know that their products are going to the right people and can be distributed with confidence. Pharmacists benefit from their patient’s added trust, which comes with the extra level of oversight. Patients themselves, of course, are safer overall.


Contact BlueStar Europe today to learn more about 2D scanners in the healthcare industry. Our partner, Datalogic, as a leader in this field, has serval healthcare solutions and together we will be happy to provide more insights and identify the solution that mostly suits your needs.



Samantha is BlueStar's Digital Media Specialist, and the primary contributing writer for VartechNation. Previously, she has worked as a Public Relations Associate and a Social Media Manager.