Horizon trials aim to eliminate use of counterfeit drugs

Irish engineering consultancy firm Horizon has just finished trials with three pharmaceutical companies which are using its systems in an effort to eliminate the use of counterfeit drugs.

The company, with offices in Dublin and Mayo, has developed a new ‘track and trace’ product for the pharmaceutical sector which will show whether drugs are counterfeit or whether they are fully compliant with existing legislation.

The use of counterfeit drugs has become much more prevalent over the past number of years as rogue manufacturers use increasingly sophisticated techniques to copy legitimate products.

“But with serialisation a unique identifier, like a passport or finger-print, can be allocated to an individual product, monitoring its journey from production, right to the customer,” said managing director of Horizon, Aiden Corcoran.

“Ireland is one of the world’s largest exporters of pharmaceuticals and exports were worth €55.1 billion in 2011, accounting for over 50% of all exports from the country.

“This industry, which is making a massive contribution to the Irish economy, needs to be protected and the systems we are implementing will be a huge step towards this.”

It is estimated that 11 million counterfeit or illegal medicines were stopped at EU borders in 2009.

Most of these drugs would have ended up being sold online by illegitimate or unethical companies and many would have found their way into legal distribution systems such as hospitals and pharmacies — putting those seriously ill at risk, added Mr Corcoran.

Horizon is currently project managing the installation of serialisation (track and trace) systems for multinational and indigenous pharmaceutical companies in Ireland, Belgium and the US.

Mr Corcoran said it came to light at a recent conference that more than 50% of Irish manufacturers have not as yet begun work on complying with impending regulations.

“There are many companies advising on information systems required, but as yet no one is helping reduce the impact to operations on the shop floor,” he added.

“We are leading the charge in terms of understanding and managing the impacts of serialisation, specifically in relation to throughput, cycle times and operational risk to manufacturing organisations in the pharmaceutical sector.”

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