Counterfeiting, the act of producing fake goods and distribution of same as if they were real has been around for centuries. The grey markets of counterfeit and pirated goods comes to $1.7 trillion annually and it is estimated that up to one-fifth of all such items are dangerous—posing health risks ranging from mild discomfort to death.
The impact of counterfeiting on human health is significant: an estimated 1 million people die each year as a result of counterfeit medicines alone, this is according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO report also estimates that 30 percent of counterfeit drugs are made up of active ingredients at the wrong dosage, potentially causing illness or even death. Counterfeiters often target expensive medicines for which there is no generic equivalent—including treatments for cancer and other life-threatening conditions.
Counterfeiting can increase the risk of ‘unwanted interactions with counterfeit ingredients’, as well as possible contamination by toxic ingredients. Counterfeit products could also exacerbate or create an entirely new disease or condition that would cause serious harm to your customers and consumers.
Counterfeit pharmaceuticals now account for nearly 10% of all fake items seized globally such as antibiotics and blood pressure medication.
Grey Markets and Human Health
With counterfeiting in pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs, the nature of these products means that safety is paramount for companies; it is not just brand integrity that they are at risk of losing. Counterfeit food could cause illness or potentially even lead to death. The issue is dire considering that modern technological advancements like 3D printing can be employed for the quick creation of fake medicines and products.
While it is difficult to measure how many people have died from taking fake medicine, the UK government estimates that more than 125,000 people die each year in Pakistan alone as a result of counterfeit drug usage. The US Center for Disease Control also states that nearly half a million Americans get sick every year after consuming contaminated food products, including one out of six fatal cases caused by salmonella poisoning between 1990 and 2006. This means that counterfeiting in the food industry also poses significant risks to human health.
Similarly, counterfeits in pharmaceuticals may contain ingredients that can be harmful for humans. For example, baby formula counterfeited with toxic melamine has led to multiple deaths and illness across China—with many children developing kidney stones after consuming these fake products between 2007–2008.
What Anti-Counterfeit Technology Can Do to Prevent the Grey Market Activities
Anti-counterfeiting technologies are now already available to tackle this ever-growing problem.
NFC tags, which utilize radio frequency identification (RFID), can be used. These individual tags have one-off codes stored on them which makes them accessible by special reader devices. The tags are almost impossible to remove without destroying them, and they tend to set off alarms when tampered with.
RFID tags are able to store more information on them than the older barcodes and QR codes, as well as being very difficult to erase, making them quite effective in the fight against counterfeiting. The inherent properties of RFIDs allow them to provide authenticity for items such as pharmaceuticals. Even though this technology is one of the most effective anti-counterfeit measures that Pharma companies can consider, it remains quite an expensive and hard to implement option.
QR codes were designed to make access quick and easy for customers and users alike. However, they can be copied from a video or photograph, so the authenticity of the product cannot be guaranteed.
Despite the drawbacks however, these afore-mentioned anti-counterfeit technologies have been implemented in different countries around the world with positive results. The United Kingdom saw an increase of counterfeit products seized by 40% between 2015 and 2016. South Korea’s Minister for Trade Kim Hyun Chong stated that ‘the number of fake products caught increased by more than 60 per cent in 2016’.
How Cypheme’s Anti-counterfeit Technology works for your Health Brand
Cypheme’s anti-counterfeit technology is powered by AI and runs on an artificial neural network – It provides brands with unique labels or tags which they can put in their food, wine, drugs, and cosmetics packing. Customers can easily scan these immutable labels which their smartphone cameras and instantly tell a genuine product from a counterfeit one.
Additionally, Cypheme equips brands with the ability to geo-fence areas where counterfeiting of their products appears to be rampant in order to help pinpoint the perpetrators for possible prosecution by the authorities.
Despite featuring technology straight from bond movies, Cypheme’s solutions are built with your ordinary customers in mind. Anybody with a standard smartphone can scan those labels and tell counterfeit-status of a product – and you do not need to download any application.
To ensure that the fingerprint labels and tags are immutable, Cypheme’s labels are infused with special chemicals and backed by robust artificial intelligence technology. The technology is trained and advanced enough to recognize attempts at replicating the labels and then alerts the brand owners of such activities.
An added advantage of Cypheme’s anti-counterfeit solution is that brands do not have to spend a fortune to protect their customers, and the solution is easy to implement. To cap it, anybody with a smartphone can detect the authenticity of a product, and that goes for manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and also the end-users.
Cypheme is a preventive anti-counterfeit technology, this means that customers can check the authenticity of a product before consumption. This inherent feature of the Cypheme technology spares the brands the embarrassment of selling counterfeit products and saves your customers from potential health risks.