Smartphone technology can help build consumer relations

Consumers can use their smartphone to verify product authenticity, communicated with a manufacturer, and enroll in product promotion programs.


Smartphone technology is also employed in the Brand Loyalty and Integrity Services (BLIS) application from Covectra, formerly PharmoRx Security. Covectra (short for Covert Track and Trace) changed its name early this year, says CEO Steve Wood, to better reflect that the company’s focus isn’t limited to pharmaceutical counterfeiting and diversion.

Covectra says BLIS provides data analysis features that can be used by manufacturers and brand owners to provide increased security, monitor consumer purchase patterns, and provide brand promotional opportunities. BLIS is part of a multi-layered approach to anti-counterfeiting and diversion control. The application enables a smartphone to be used to input serialized human-readable codes unique to a unit package. Once the code is entered into the smartphone, the application checks it against Covectra's AuthentiTrack™ software platform. This platform can be used to track the product from packaging throughout the supply chain, and ultimately to the consumer. The consumer is then able to verify authenticity, communicate directly with the manufacturer, and enroll in product promotion programs.

Wood believes that pharmaceutical companies may not always know where their products go within the distribution system. “What we are doing with BLIS is providing a structure and some incentives for the patient to actually contact the pharmaceutical manufacturer and enroll as an anonymous user to get advice or counseling on the medication,” he says. “They could receive any announcements from a manufacturer about the drug, such as new side-effect information. Pharmaceutical companies offer some financial incentives to these patients to continue to use the product. Say for the next purchase, they might be able to get a coupon to save money off of a future purchase. So pharmaceutical companies could help retain consumers and help keep them from shifting to a competitive product or a generic product.”

He says BLIS products can help pharma firms monitor product returns and credits for expired products. “I had one pharmaceutical company tell me that they estimate that they lose up to $50 million per year in issuing credit for product that is either counterfeit or isn’t eligible for credit. And a main reason is that there is nothing on the package that they are able to use to authenticate that this product is coming back, and it’s a product for which they should issue credit,” he says.

“The smartphone gives you a lot more capabilities just because of the processing power. For example, we get an iPhone application, and with an iPhone, I can type in a 10-digit serial number off of a package—or better yet, an individual inner dose within the package--to determine if it’s a legitimate product with a valid serial number. Or I can read about product history, such as where the product was made, where it was packaged, when it left the packaging facility and possibly, something about its distribution,” Wood continues.

Wood says a pharmaceutical brand owner could be able to enter that serialized number into its database and let any patient who calls in know that that product was reported as stolen, and that they can contact this toll-free number immediately. Then hopefully enough consumers would contact that company for them to gather enough data points to possibly localize somebody or some company that is selling those stolen drugs. A pharmaceutical company could not only better understand the chain of custody through the distribution chain, but also thank the consumer.”

Looking ahead, Wood says that he believes that pharmaceutical companies are going to have to change the way they do business. “Reimbursement is forcing them to lower selling prices, so it’s going to be just a lot more difficult for these companies than in the past,” he says. “Companies are getting squeezed by generics more than ever. It’s difficult to launch new products, to get products through the FDA. The products strictly in the biotech area take a long time in the development cycle. So once a product gets approved, we believe that the pharmaceutical companies are going to try to find more innovative ways to market their products and make contact with their customer base.”