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A week on, drugmakers grapple with QR/bar code logistics

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Faced with supply-chain and price issues, drugmakers are looking to seek more time from the Government to sport QR or barcodes on their medicines.

A week ago, the Centre had mandated that the country’s 300 top brands sport QR/barcodes by August 2023, in an effort to weed out fake and counterfeit products.

Pharma industry representatives agree the writing is on the wall when it comes to improving the traceability of their products and the authenticity of the medicine for consumers. But they are still evaluating the logistics involved in its roll-out, said representatives, speaking for drugmakers of all hues.

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While they were aligned with the concept, Vivek Sehgal, Director General of the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) said, they would seek more time, as they were grappling with the backend logistics of the supply chain and of medicines that are imported in the country. OPPI is a platform largely representing multinational drugmakers in India and has 26 companies on board.

Speaking for large domestic drugmakers, Sudarshan Jain with the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, said they were evaluating the details of the roll-out and the logistics involved across the different manufacturing plants, formulations and so on.

In fact, speaking for mid and small-sized companies, the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association’s Daara Patel said, they too were evaluating the cost and logistic implications involving packaging.

Though the bar and QR codes are for the top 300 brands, for now, industry watchers say, the planning should keep in mind that there are 10,000 production facilities in the country and 60,000 formulations, sold across eight lakh retailers.

One-time investment

Meanwhile, service providers of track and trace technologies say, the process involves a minimal, one-time investment and possible “retooling” of systems, that drugmakers will have to undertake in the interest of their products and consumer safety, especially against the backdrop of the Gambia incident, where deaths of over 60 children are being investigated for potential links to adulterated syrups from a company in India. While the quality of the product is itself being called into question, having complete traceability on the product’s supply chain would have helped investigation, says a technology provider.

Pharmaceuticals are among the top industry segments faced with the problem of fakes and counterfeits, says Lokesh Harjani, Founder and CEO, OnSpot Solutions, and this was witnessed particularly during the pandemic. OnSpot offers cloud-based anti-counterfeiting, brand protection and product authentication services. Explaining the technology they provide, he said, it involved simple tools that aligned with a company’s systems. Stressing its importance, he said, it was significant given the brand-sales erosion it could prevent, besides the safety it could ensure a consumer armed with a mobile phone.

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