How to use RFID to Tackling Counterfeit Medicines

tackling counterfeit medicines

Counterfeit medicines are a global problem that can have serious health consequences. According to the World Health Organization, counterfeit drugs account for 10% of all medicines purchased globally and 30% of anti-malarial drugs in Africa are fake. Yet some countries are better at tackling the problem than others. In Nigeria, which has been subject to increased counterfeiting due to its high rate of internet use and lack of awareness among consumers, only 8% of pharmaceuticals sold on local markets were found to be genuine by pharmacists in 2012—and this number has not improved since then. The United Kingdom has a better track record: according to the 2015 Annual Report on Counterfeiting Medicines by Interpol Pharmaceutical crime is underreported because doctors don’t want their reputations damaged if their patients become ill after taking counterfeit drugs;

The need for a secure, reliable and scalable solution to tackle counterfeit medicines is becoming increasingly urgent. The problem is growing and it’s not just about fake drugs that are harmful to people’s health, it’s also about the damage done by counterfeits to the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. A recent study by the International Chamber of Commerce found that counterfeit medicines cost over $200 billion a year in lost sales to manufacturers, distributors and retailers. The World Health Organization estimates that some 10% of all medicines in circulation may be fakes; another report suggests this figure could be as high as 50%.

The need for a global standard

There is a need for a global standard. The GS1 standards for track and trace and authenticating pharmaceutical drugs are compatible, but the RFID standards of ISO-18000-6C, EPCglobal Class 1 Generation 2 and EPCglobal Gen 2 (ISO/IEC 18000-63) are different. Those with experience in the field say that this has contributed to confusion in making use of RFID tags in pharmaceutical supply chains.

GS1 standards for track and trace

Track and trace is a process that allows you to track the movement of your product through the supply chain. The GS1 standards are used to track and trace pharmaceuticals, ensuring that medicines can be traced from manufacturer to consumer. Pharmaceutical companies should use unique codes on their products so they can easily be identified by anyone who needs to know where they are at any given time. This will allow counterfeiters to be spotted easily, as well as helping law enforcement when trying to determine whether a drug comes from legitimate sources or not.

GS1 standards for authenticating pharmaceutical drugs

The GS1 standards for authenticating pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices, and surgical instruments are the result of a collaboration between GS1 Global Registry and other industry associations. These standards provide manufacturers with the ability to verify product authenticity through unique identifiers such as serial numbers and lot numbers.

GS1 Serial Numbers

A GS1 serial number consists of a prefix followed by a suffix separated by an alphanumeric check digit; for example: 12345678-9

RFID solutions can help track and authenticate medicines in the supply chain.

The pharmaceutical industry is currently facing a significant challenge: the counterfeit and stolen medicines market. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 10% of all medicines circulating in the global supply chain are counterfeit, resulting in over $30 billion USD per year in losses for the pharmaceutical industry.

This can be a huge problem for patients, who may not know what they’re getting when they purchase medicines from rogue suppliers or during an emergency situation (e.g., a natural disaster). RFID tags can help track and authenticate medications throughout their journey from manufacturers to pharmacies so that patients can rest assured that they are receiving authentic products every time they need medicine.


The use of RFID in the pharmaceutical supply chain can help to tackle the problem of counterfeit medicines. The GS1 standards for track and trace and authenticating pharmaceutical drugs will benefit from RFID technology because it provides a secure environment that can be used to protect drug products from being stolen or counterfeited.


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