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It’s not a Needle in a Haystack

I recently had the pleasure of attending an event organized by the Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurship at Fairleigh Dickinson University near Madison, NJ. The 2014 Innovation Conference – Counterfeiting! Protecting the Supply Chain included presentations and Q&A on anti-counterfeiting, supply chain security and cyber security.

Of particular interest was content presented by Anthony Orosz of US Customs & Border Protection. Anthony took the audience through a comprehensive review of the remit of his particular department specifically looking for pharmaceutical counterfeits.

There is no shortage of suspect product for Anthony and his small team to identify and seize. And the manner in which the counterfeiters innovate to avoid detection never fails to entertain and impress. What I found remarkable for the US Market is the volume of suspect product. It still seems quite large even after many years of targeted tightening of the US pharmaceutical supply chain. The counterfeiters are true entrepreneurs even though they don’t deserve this type of positive characterization. As older avenues to their suspecting and unsuspecting customers have disappeared they have responded and stepped up focus on less secure channels into the US market.

A significant component of the volume driving the metrics emanates from personal packages through snail mail. Noting that almost everything is scanned (x-ray) on entry a colleague whispered to me, “It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.” To which I replied, “It’s not ‘a’ needle. It’s thousands of needles. You only have to look and you’re practically guaranteed to find a fake!”

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We all should be grateful to Anthony and those in US Customs & Border Protection who tirelessly go about their work without much awareness, recognition or gratitude from the general public. The US would be a far less safe place without them. But you can make their work more effective by simply refusing to buy from questionable sources abroad. If the price is too good to be true and it’s originating from outside the US you should immediately suspect authenticity. If you’re able to purchase a medicine without a prescription over the internet from abroad then it’s probably substandard, illegitimate or counterfeit. Don’t play Russian Roulette with your health – buy from trusted sources who insist on a prescription.