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Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru July 01 , 2022
Indian pharma continues to be one of the key targets for unlawful activities as sale of counterfeit medicines prevail even as the industry is totally compliant to good production and distribution practices.

The Union government’s mandate to implement QR code on packages of top 300 brands could curb the circulation of fake, spurious, and substandard pharmaceutical products, pointed out Nakul Pasricha, president, Authentication Solution Providers’ Association (ASPA).

From May 2023, top 300 brands holding market share of 35% at least for lifesaving drugs has been directed to display QR code on their packaging. A Gazetted notification has been issued to this effect. Widely used analgesics, pain reliever, anti-platelet, vitamin supplement, blood-sugar medicine and contraceptive brands have been shortlisted by India’s Drug Pricing Authority to implement QR codes. Popularly used drugs such as Dolo, Saridon Fabiflu, Ecosprin, Limcee, Sumo, Corex syrup, Calpol, etc have been included under this, he added.

The implementation would discourage criminals from manufacturing and selling falsified products and create awareness in healthcare professional, nursing staff, pharmacists, and consumers about the need to check the authenticity of the medicine(s) they are purchasing. It would spark a positive buying behaviour among consumers making them less vulnerable towards getting duped into buying spurious medicines, he noted.

We see this draft notification as a step in the right direction to protect medicine distribution in India. For the present the notification calls for a unique product identifier, which can be taken to mean a code identifying the particular SKU (stock keeping unit). In order to protect against counterfeiting, it is essential that each saleable unit of the drug in question has its own unique code.  This can easily be generated and embedded in the QR code and make the product more secure. Hence we see the need for the regulation to be amended to include this unique code, Pasricha told Pharmabiz in an email.

Presence of considerable number of spurious, sub-standard, falsified, and fake medicines threatens the human health and well-being. To make things worse, the Covid pandemic was also exploited by disreputable people to sell counterfeits medicines.

While strict regulations are adhered for medicine exports, the challenge has been to tackle the sale of counterfeits in the domestic market.  Some guidelines have been issued from time to time, but lack of a clear mandate from the government.  There is a need to handle the situation which threatens the right of people to get good quality medicine. Moreover counterfeits medicines have a cascading effect on loss of revenue to the government, damaging profits of brands and eroding people’s trust people in the healthcare ecosystem.

India make a huge mark globally and is recognised as the pharmacy of the world. Pharma industry has proved its capability to manufacture high quality medicines, vaccines, and related consumables not just for the national market but to the world. Unfortunately, alongside the booming pharma and healthcare opportunity, the problem of spurious and falsified medicines is also continuously grown. Indian pharma being a key target for counterfeit medicines now sees QR codes could curb its circulation, said Pasricha.

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