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Digital Fingerprinting To Lower The Number Of Fake Prescription Pills Sold

As of December 2015, around 920 suspected SSFFC (Substandard, Spurious, Falsely labelled, Falsified and Counterfeit) pharmaceutical products have been reported to the WHO (World Health Organization). However, this number is pretty low compared to the whole amount of counterfeit pills currently on the market. Dr. Jamie Barras, a researcher from Kings College London, made this statement:

”It’s like an iceberg. The visible part of the problem is the drugs that are detected, which can run into the millions of pills every year, but what we can’t see are the drugs that go undetected.”

Most counterfeit pills are sold on dark net marketplaces, however, the buyers do not know what they are buying, according to the research by Kings College.

”Drugs often go through several hands before they reach the consumer; this could be years after they are manufactured,” added Dr. Barras.

Also, the problem could be that most of the counterfeit pills are sold as original ones, however, they are not. This could cause several issues for the consumers of the substances.

Dr. Barras is also the technical manager of the EU-funded CONPHIRMER project, which developed a handheld scanner to detect counterfeit medical products. The scanner uses radio waves to record a digital fingerprint of the packages’ contents in customs or in post offices that are from suspicious medical companies. The project, led by Professor Kaspar Althoefer of King’s College London, can then compare the signatures with a database of legitimate pharmaceutical fingerprints, ”allowing for a better, non-invasive way to locate counterfeit drugs”. CONPHIRMER is planning to release its scanner when they are able to sign an agreement with a company. Dr. Barras also added this statement:

”There is always this question if there is a right to seize something. But if you can give a definitive answer to that, at the sorting office, or at a market stall somewhere in equatorial Africa, you can give (customs) the confidence to take action.”

Most counterfeit pills come from India and China where gangs are manufacturing them and sending them abroad to sell them. Criminals are also able to acquire legitimate products, then repackage and distribute them to consumers. Marco Musumeci, programme coordinator at UNICRI (United Nations Interregional Criminal and Justice Research Institute) in Italy, made these statements about the case:

”They (criminal organisations) are flooding the market with falsified medicines, exploiting the loopholes which exist in different regulations and legislations. They are extremely good at masking themselves behind a sort of smoke screen to appear as licit market operators which are, for instance, simply redistributing medicines from some place where there is too much supply and send it to some place where there is too much demand.

If they are producing illicit drugs like ecstasy pills then they have the machines to make other pills.

In terms of raw materials we know they use the cheapest, they don’t care about what they put into the product.

A variety of legitimate operators across the supply chain may be vulnerable to organised crime pressures. It’s not just a question of corruption but of the intimidating power.

In the EU, every operator should be checked, but in other countries, this may not be the case.”

Dr. Guggi Kofod, from the University of Potsdam who is the coordinator of the EU-funded ACfoil project that develops anti-counterfeiting hologram foils, made these statements:

”We can make unique products that are hard to replicate by counterfeiters. They demand a large investment so it would be very hard technologically and production-wise to match our holograms.”

If we could create a system with an unbroken chain of traceability, all the way from production to the end consumer, possibly via a scanning device or coding, and addressing repackaging, we put the power in the hands of the consumer, where it needs to be.”


  1. Just copy past :) we need source!:!!!

  2. Calling for an open source app that will scan pills ( or whatever ) using chromatography thus revealing the contents. Hey, why not ?

    • Totally love the idea. An app such as you describe would be a great boon to humanity. Imagine the relief nightclubbers would have whipping out their phones and scanning the purity of the drug the just bought. It would save lives and greatly increase the quality of life. I suggest a prize be offered by some organisation to the tech or group of techs to come up with a working app like this.

    • Lets talk then :)

  3. Or here is a novel and much simpler solution. Why doesn’t the U.S., and other countries, make access to pills easier and at a sensible price. Obviously because the big pharma lobby controls all of that. If only true democracy existed in this world, just as true communism has never existed. The correct terms are Capatalism and Socialism / Dictatorship.

  4. there’s already some medications on the market that are traceable,

    the sublingual film Suboxone, for example, have a barcode on each film wrapper, and ultimately a unopened trip could still be traced to the originating prescribed individual.

  5. I would like to know if anyone here is using the black market and their experience on it. I am thinking of giving it a go but would like some feedback For those interested you can find the black market news here.

  6. Gotmilk has best indian medications all legit.

    • Faux

      Do you have any idea how these Indian drugs are manufactured? We are talking about abysmal conditions of hygiene and total lack of quality control. Indian factories are used by TEVA to produce the cheapest ‘drugs’ and people have died after consuming them. Do yourself a favor and avoid them if you have any respect for your health.

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