As Peter McAuley (The Pharmaceutical Journal 2014;293:180), Umakant Patel (The Pharmaceutical Journal 2014;293:151) and others have previously highlighted, there will be many issues in implementing and developing the largest IT project ever to hit these shores. However, we have to be mindful that the response by the EU is not a negotiation, it is a compulsory measure aimed at preventing falsified medicines entering the supply chain and into the hands of patients.
The aims of the EU directive and its associated delegated acts have merit because pharmaceutical crime is rising and the falsification of medicines accounted for the largest haul of counterfeit products recovered by EU customs officers last year. These were not only the usual, expensive lifestyle medicines but cheaper, high turnover generics. Because pharmacists are the healthcare professionals who interact with the most patients and whose focus is on the safe supply and use of medicines, the fight against counterfeit medicines has to be a priority for the profession and pharmacists must be committed to playing their part.
Understandably, most counterfeit medicines in Europe are acquired through illegal internet sources but, as counterfeiters become more sophisticated in their approach, the risk of a fake medicine entering the legal supply chain is real. Even if we believe the UK is counterfeit-proof, it is likely we will become more prone to attack by counterfeiters if we appear to be less rigorous than the rest of Europe.
Of course, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) does not have a magic wand but it is central to key discussions. Through our hosted meetings and with stakeholder partners, we are lobbying for a national system that is not only implemented efficiently but is also cost-effective. We want an authentication tool that is robust, reliable and flexible enough to work in different sectors. It must be able to work alongside existing software on pharmacy systems, such as patient medication records, the electronic prescription service and the summary care record, in order to minimise bureaucracy and workforce pressure while adding professional value, improving service quality and enhancing patient care. We also want to protect generated data and avoid sacrificing the punctuality of access to medicines.
Finally, a key aim for the RPS is to raise public awareness of the threat counterfeit medicines pose and to ensure our members are not only aware but are engaging with us at every opportunity either through the RPS conference, our virtual pharmacy network or through The Pharmaceutical Journal before the implementation of the new authentication tool in 2018.
Sid Dajani, treasurer of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, UK delegate of the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union and Chairman of the Pan-Pharmacy Information Management and Technology Group of the RPS.
The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the RPS, PGEU or the information management and technology group.