QIPP, Efficiency & Savings

11.08.17

GS1 standards: a weapon against counterfeit drugs

Source: NHE Jul/Aug 2017

Glen Hodgson, head of healthcare at GS1 UK, explores the rising problem of counterfeit drugs and the legislation being introduced to tackle it.

Counterfeit drugs are a global problem. World Health Organization data puts the sales of counterfeit drugs at over $75bn every year, with more than 50% of drugs sold online being falsified. And, in case you think this doesn’t affect us in the UK, the nation’s medicines regulator, the MHRA, seized over 12,000,000 fake or unlicensed products in the first half of last year and they’ve shut down more than 2,000 online pharmacies. You also probably know someone who is vulnerable – one in eight British people, aged between 18-30, have said they’re likely to buy diet pills online in the next 12 months. 

As you’d expect, countries all over the world are doing their best to combat this and legislation around labelling requirements for medicines is establishing how best to win the battle. The key focus for regulators is the need to identify and trace pharmaceutical products, so that we know the medicine is what it says it is and can see exactly where it has come from. More specifically in Europe, this has taken the form of the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), which requires a unique identifier to be placed on all medical products. And if you’re wondering about Brexit, the legislation comes into effect in February 2019 so we’ll need to be compliant at that point. But realistically, similar legislation is being brought in around the world so there’s no reason to think an independent UK wouldn’t need to keep up. 

How standards make a difference 

The FMD asks for all manufacturers of pharmaceuticals to put a two-dimensional barcode on the packaging of all products. This identifies the product, expiry date, batch number and serial number, and must appear in ‘human readable format’ too. It’s here that GS1 standards make the difference – the GS1 2D DataMatrix was chosen by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations as its data carrier of choice, because of the need for globally unique codes to identify and authenticate these products. 

GS1 standards bring the interoperability and means that manufacturers, suppliers, pharmacies and hospitals are all speaking the same language, using the same standards, and ensuring that they can work across markets, stakeholders and sectors. It’s why the Department of Health has mandated the use of our standards in all acute trusts in England – to uniquely identify every person, product and place. And it’s another reason for suppliers to the NHS to become GS1-compliant as it will be written into their NHS contracts that they need to be so.

These changes represent an enormous change for pharmacy practice – but they also provide a fantastic opportunity for improving safety. They guarantee that every pack of medicine can be checked and verified at every stage of the supply chain. And in the case of a product recall, a product can be identified down to the individual packet, so healthcare professionals can know where drugs have come from, who has administered them and who they’ve come into contact with. The standards are a weapon against counterfeiting because they stop falsified medicines from even getting that far – they’re checked and verified at every point along the way.

These standards are already embedded in the retail sector, they’ve been using them for over 40 years. And the accurate data this brings benefits everyone, making for a more efficient and effective supply chain. The level of traceability we find in retail is what we’re now aiming for in healthcare, giving the healthcare system a common foundation for enhancing care delivery and ensuring patient safety.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

W: www.gs1uk.org/healthcare

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

CQC finds ‘significant improvements’ at specialist London NHS trust

25/03/2019CQC finds ‘significant improvements’ at specialist London NHS trust

Significant improvements have been found by inspectors at the Royal National Orthopaedic NHS Trust (RNOH) in a “major step forward” f... more >
Heart surgeries cancelled and patients warned of fatal infection risk due to deaths at Edinburgh hospital

25/03/2019Heart surgeries cancelled and patients warned of fatal infection risk due to deaths at Edinburgh hospital

NHS Lothian has written to nearly 200 patients who have undergone heart surgery in the last six months warning them of a potentially fatal infect... more >
Medical director promoted to chief executive at under-investigation trust

25/03/2019Medical director promoted to chief executive at under-investigation trust

The Countess of Chester Hospital Trust (COCH) has announced that its medical director has been appointed as its new chief executive. Susan G... more >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital exemplars who were revealed at the same show 12 months earlier.  Jeremy Hunt also stated th... read more >

last word

Hard to be optimistic

Hard to be optimistic

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, warns that we must be realistic about the very real effects of continued underfunding across the health service. It’s now bey... more > more last word articles >

the scalpel's daily blog

What progress are we making to transform our population’s mental health?

25/03/2019What progress are we making to transform our population’s mental health?

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health and Social Care at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence - NICE - provides her view of the newly published NICE impact report on mental health. Mental health conditions are the largest single cause of disability in the UK, with one in 4 adults experienci... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

comment

What progress are we making to transform our population’s mental health?

25/03/2019What progress are we making to transform our population’s mental health?

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health and Social Care at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence - ... more >
Staying curious with the Shadow Board Programme

20/03/2019Staying curious with the Shadow Board Programme

Kirstie Stott, director of The Inspiring Leaders Network, discusses organisational and system curiosity alongside the work of the Shadow Board Pr... more >
Fiction as Therapy

20/03/2019Fiction as Therapy

Elaine Bousfield of ZunTold Publishing – a press specialising in fiction for children and young people – discusses ‘Fiction as ... more >
Capturing funds for the NHS estate

20/03/2019Capturing funds for the NHS estate

Aahsan Rahman, department head of town planning at NHS Property Services (NHSPS), looks at an alternative and perhaps underutilised funding sourc... more >

interviews

How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

24/10/2018How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

A dedicated national social care service could be a potential solution to surging demand burdening acute health providers over the winter months,... more >
RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

24/10/2018RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

The president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has told NHE that the college’s new headquarters based in Liverpool will become a hu... more >
Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

24/01/2018Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

The NHS plays a part in the country’s wellness – but it’s far from being all that matters. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Pu... more >
Cutting through the fake news

22/11/2017Cutting through the fake news

In an era of so-called ‘fake news’ growing alongside a renewed focus on reducing stigma around mental health, Paul Farmer, chief exec... more >

health service focus

View all News