Europe’s medicines tracking system goes live

13 February 2019

A new world-first, digital tracking system covering the medicines supply chain across the EU has gone live, promising greater security against counterfeit medicines.

The new European Medicines Verification System (EMVS) is a world first, and uses a barcode to track every pack of medicines as they travel from the manufacturer into the supply chain and on to the patient. Medicines now also have an anti-tamper device to ensure they are not interfered with before the patient receives them. The EMVS uses new technology and a dedicated network of national bodies working together to guarantee safety and security.

The system went live on Saturday 9 February, and has been introduced under new European regulations, the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD).  A decade or more in the making, the regulations aim to eliminate the potential for counterfeit drugs to enter the supply chain, a problem which has grown into a multi-million dollar illegal industry over the past several years.

“The EMVS has a unique structure that really makes it one of a kind,” said Hugh Pullen, president of the European Medicines Verification Organisation (EMVO). “It will connect around 2,000 pharmaceutical companies, around 6,000 wholesale distribution authorisation holders, 140,000 pharmacies, 5,000 hospital pharmacies and around 2,000 dispensing doctors in 28 EEA countries.”

EMVO says it will ensure the system remains stable and secure so that any issues are ironed out without disruption. However two countries, Italy and Greece will have longer transition periods to join the system. The organisation also says that the system could serve as a blueprint for securing the supply of medicines beyond Europe.

For the UK, however, the introduction of EMVS has reinforced the issues caused by Brexit. On Friday, UK pharma industry and NHS leaders welcomed the new system, describing it as the ‘world’s best’ medicines safety system and said it would be a ‘travesty’ if the UK had to leave the new network as part of a no-deal Brexit.

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