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Safe Supply Chains for All

Last month, we covered the hot topic of serialization (catch up at, if you missed it). Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to speak with Ken Brown, the Executive Vice Chancellor of the University of Tennessee. Brown has also been involved in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) effort to develop the Supply Chain Security Toolkit (1). The University of Tennessee’s Health Science Center is designated by APEC as a Center of Excellence in global medical product quality and pharmaceutical supply chain security, and Brown’s personal passion for the supply chain was moving. Indeed, he described it as one of the single most important topics in the industry. Firstly, counterfeit and falsified medicines cause serious harm or death – either directly or indirectly. Secondly, this serious crime undermines all of the effort that goes into building and training a reputable pharma and healthcare industry. Look forward to reading the full interview with Brown in a future issue.

Unscrupulous individuals and counterfeiting will always exist where profit can be made, so it’s a constant battleground. Interpol’s “Operation Pangea” took place at the end of September, resulting in the seizure of illicit or counterfeit medicines worth more than $51 million, and 400 arrests worldwide (2). The operation takes places annually at a different time each year, and involves Interpol, police, customs, and health regulatory agencies. Thanks to such efforts, plus new technology, regulations, and the work by APEC and others, it is becoming increasingly difficult to slip illicit medicines in legitimate supply chains in Europe and the US (discounting the proliferation of dubious sources on the Internet).

But what about low- and middle-income countries, where counterfeiting is an even bigger killer? Cheap, portable analytics are one potential solution to combat the problem – and the positive impact of one such system was highlighted recently by the 2017 Humanity in Science Award (3). Richard Jähnke from the Global Pharma Health Fund received the award from our sister publication, The Analytical Scientist and its partner, KNAUER, for his work on the GPHF Minilab – a field kit for medicine quality analysis. More than 800 Minilabs have been put into service, detecting falsified medicines in 95 countries.

With so many determined individuals working so hard to combat the problem, can we one day hope for a time when the chance of a patient receiving a dangerous counterfeit product is very much reduced worldwide? After all, access to safe medicines should not be limited by geography.

Stephanie Sutton

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  1. APEC, “APEC Supply Chain Toolkit” (2017). Available at Last accessed October 11, 2017.
  2. Interpol, “Millions of medicines seized in largest INTERPOL operation against illicit online pharmacies” (2017). Available at Last accessed October 11, 2017.
  3. The Humanity in Science Award,
About the Author
Stephanie Vine

Making great scientific magazines isn’t just about delivering knowledge and high quality content; it’s also about packaging these in the right words to ensure that someone is truly inspired by a topic. My passion is ensuring that our authors’ expertise is presented as a seamless and enjoyable reading experience, whether in print, in digital or on social media. I’ve spent fourteen years writing and editing features for scientific and manufacturing publications, and in making this content engaging and accessible without sacrificing its scientific integrity. There is nothing better than a magazine with great content that feels great to read.

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