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Drug counterfeiting: The battle rages on

As someone who takes prescription drugs on an ongoing basis, I found Katherine Eban's book, Dangerous Doses—How Counterfeiters Are Contaminating America's Drug Supply, to be an eye-opener.

Although RFID, bar coding, holograms, and color-shifting inks are among the most recognized methods of countering counterfeiting, two other intriguing technologies have recently come to my attention:

• According to in-Pharma, a laser marking system on glass vials is set to begin "in the second quarter" this year. Lasers will mark transparent materials. "Single product items will be marked with an encrypted alphanumeric code, which will be delivered to the pharmaceutical manufacturers," says the release. "To check if a product is genuine, consumers will validate the code on the Internet."
• Russell Cowburn, professor of nanotechnology at London's Imperial College has pioneered a "fingerprints" technology to beat counterfeiters. Ingenia Technology is commercially developing a laser surface authentication system that reads the surface of paper and plastics (not clear glass).

With this technology, packaging would be "fingerprint" read out of the factory, with the information stored in a database or written into the item using an encrypted bar code. Downstream, that fingerprint could be re-read and compared against the bar code or database.

--By Jim Butschli, Editor
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