As counterfeiters’ techniques become more sophisticated, the difficulty of controlling unauthorised activity along the supply chain is increasing. Software service provider Original1 offers its customers a comprehensive solution, which, as CEO Claudia Alsdorf explains, combines supply chain integrity, secure item level product authentication and Nokia’s easy-to-use mobile technology.

From brand owners to wholesalers, retailers to consumers, product piracy is a phenomenon affecting the entire supply chain. An all-inclusive solution is, consequently, the most effective way to protect against the illegal activity which is undermining the integrity of the pharmaceutical industry.

Three shareholders have collaborated to create Europe’s first comprehensive Software as a Service (cSaaS) solution, which gives every participant along the supply chain total confidence in the authenticity (or otherwise) of the product in front of them. SAP provides the supply chain management capabilities, Nokia offers mobile authentication solutions, and Giesecke & Devrient ensures the security of the operation through its encryption technology.

"There has been a lot of positive feedback within the industry regarding the service we are able to offer," Original1’s CEO Claudia Alsdorf says. ‘It is a holistic package able to both track and trace, and verify the authenticity of a product.’

Every member of the supply chain is able to check whether or not a product is genuine via Original1’s mobile phone-based, easy-to-use secure item level product authentication service, which supports barcodes, RFID tags, copy detection patterns, holograms or other machine-readable marker technologies. Combined with detailed product information, logistics data and track-and-trace technology, an unprecedented level of visibility is guaranteed.

Beneficiaries of the technology operate across an array of sectors – from retailers to government bodies. "The customs officer is not only able to confirm whether or not the product is real or fake, he can also get information about the shipment," Alsdorf explains. "If a product was shipped yesterday out of China and arrives in Germany the next day, something is obviously wrong in the supply chain and he can begin to investigate."

It is crucial that as many people as possible verify the product’s authenticity via their mobile phones. "With a large number of verification points, you get a higher information density, leading to an increased security level," Alsdorf notes. The manufacturer or brand owner is the only member of the chain who must pay per item, so the number of authentications will not increase the cost of the service.

Original1’s user management system means that the most relevant information is available to each member of the supply chain. "The consumer needs access to the product information, but it is more important for the customs officials to receive detailed track-and-trace information," Alsdorf remarks. "The retailer, on the other hand, is more interested in the right package being delivered to the right location."

While Alsdorf’s service is key to the improvement of the situation in Europe, the pharmaceutical industry also needs to implement a comprehensive plan to prevent the spread of product piracy. In response to the European Commission’s draft directive, which aims to reduce the risks of counterfeit medicines entering the legitimate supply chain, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) has piloted a mass serialisation scheme in Sweden. It aims to improve the coding and identification of products through the use of a 2-d data matrix.

Yet as the situation gradually begins to improve across Europe, lessdeveloped nations continue to suffer. "We aim to expand into the Asian-Pacific and African markets," says Alsdorf. "It is important to have a global presence and the problems are worse in those areas.

"We have had to adapt the service for Africa because most mobile phones there do not have cameras. In order to use the majority of our technologies you need to scan the product with a camera, but we have adjusted the system to solely use SMS technology."

As Original1 extends its offering and governments increase the hurdles for perpetrators of criminal counterfeiting, the situation looks set to improve. Yet until mass serialisation becomes mainstream and every pharmaceutical company is obliged to perform a verifying scan at the distribution point, the problem will not be entirely solved