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Who Investigates Counterfeit Cosmetics Products?

In our last blog post, we talked about the global problem of counterfeit cosmetics. Today, we’re talking about who investigates counterfeit cosmetics products, starting with how cosmetics are regulated in the United States and the EU.

Regulation of cosmetics products varies greatly from country to country, so our discussion today should not be taken as an overview of what to expect everywhere cosmetics are sold. Enforcement of laws and the actions authorities take to target counterfeits also vary.

What is universal, however, is that the cosmetics industry faces unique challenges with consumer safety, increased consumer demand for transparency, and being targeted by counterfeiters. It’s good to know who investigates counterfeit cosmetics products and what measures you can take to be part of the solution.

Who investigates counterfeit cosmetics products: USA and EU

Counterfeit cosmetics are dangerous because the criminals who make them don’t follow regulations or standards for production. Fakes are often contaminated with “stuff” you really don’t want to think about, let alone put on your face, such as bacteria, animal and human feces, arsenic, and mercury. So, regulators keep an eye on cosmetics.

United States

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the governing body for cosmetic regulations. Cosmetics products do not require FDA approval — but they are regulated. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) explain the FDA’s requirements, restrictions, and disciplinary actions regarding cosmetics.

The FDA focuses on preventing adulteration and misbranding, mislabeling, and harmful ingredients or drugs. Adulteration refers to products or product ingredients that are not in line with FDA regulations or that have been contaminated. A misbranded product is “improperly labelled or deceptively packaged,” which could include counterfeit cosmetics products. The FDA prohibits 11 chemicals from being used in cosmetics products.

Additionally, the FDA reserves the authority to request recalls and work with the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Border Customs if any violations are found. It maintains a “Cosmetics Recalls & Alerts” page and has a searchable “Enforcement Report” database of recalled products.

The European Union

Cosmetics products manufactured in and imported to Europe are regulated under the EU Cosmetic Regulation. Like the FDA, the EU regulates ingredients and labeling; generally, however, the regulations are broader and more precisely defined.

For example, more than 1,300 substances (e.g., chemicals, colorants, and preservatives) are banned from cosmetic use, and hundreds more are permitted only under certain conditions. The regulations also mandate Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), whereas the FDA only suggests GMP as “guidelines for effective self-inspection.”

Furthermore, the EU requires significant product documentation. Every cosmetics company must have a “responsible person” for every product they make. This person is responsible for ensuring products are safe and comply with regulations, and must submit a cosmetics product notification through an online portal before a product can be sold.

The responsible person must also create a product information file that includes the name, description, and nature of the product; description of the manufacturing methods; statement of compliance with regulations and GMP; a product safety report; and data about animal testing, if any. They must also assemble a product safety report that contains product safety information and a product safety assessment.

Do consumers have a role?

Yes, and it begins with vigilance with prices, packaging, and product quality:

      • Prices: If the price is too good to be true or just noticeably cheaper than the last time you bought it, there’s a good chance it’s a fake.
      • Packaging: The printing might look shoddy or the colors might seem off. There might not be a barcode. There might not be packaging at all, and the products might be offered in bulk.
      • Product: If the consistency or texture seem different, it’s likely a fake

In the United States, consumers can “report suspicions concerning the manufacture or sale of counterfeit or pirated goods” to the FBI. For suspected counterfeit cosmetics products seen online, consumers can contact the FBI Internet Fraud Complaint Center. The FBI has also partnered with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center to create a tip line where consumers can report products they suspect to be fake.

In the EU, consumers are encouraged to contact their local authorities about counterfeit cosmetics products. Depending on the nature of the situation, the authorities might investigate themselves or contact the appropriate investigative body, which could include Europol. The United Kingdom has Action Fraud, an online reporting tool for fraud and cybercrime.

Consumers should also be aware of what brands are doing to combat counterfeits and consumer engagement programs that encourage people to report suspicious products.

Final thoughts

If you really want to drill down into the U.S. and EU regulations, download our “Global Cosmetics Market” white paper today. It also has a section about regulations in Singapore, plus more information about counterfeit cosmetics products.

In “Top Supply Chain Trends of 2021,” we posed some important questions companies should ask themselves as we move toward what is likely to be another challenging year for supply chains. Many of those questions, listed below, fit perfectly with what we talked about today — regulations, counterfeits, brand protection, consumer engagement.

Your supply chain is where all of these concerns converge. Which is why you should schedule a short demo of our solutions. In about 15 minutes, we can show you the basics of our Traceability System and how it transforms your supply chain into a strategic asset that will improve and protect every facet of your business.

 

  • Are you keeping up with supply chain trends?
  • Are there gaps and blind spots in your supply chain?
  • Are counterfeits a problem in your industry?
  • Are you doing everything you can to protect your brand?
  • Are you actively reaching out to your customers to bring them closer to your brand?
  • Are there compliance deadlines on the horizon?
  • Are you certain your current supply chain solutions are truly optimal?
  • Are you using your supply chain as a strategic asset?

Why We Should Worry About Counterfeit Cosmetics

Counterfeit cosmetics have boomed during the pandemic. Not that they’ve ever not been in fashion among the criminal set. But recent research shows a renaissance, a proliferation of often dangerous fakes readily available to more people and through newer channels.

We just published a white paper about the global cosmetics market. It has a section about counterfeit cosmetics, and now we want to keep the conversation going with more information about this global problem. Here we go.

The statistics reveal “a worrying threat”

In “Global Trade in Fakes: A Worrying Threat” (June 2021), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that the global value of counterfeits and pirated goods amounted to as much as $464 billion in 2019, or 2.5 percent of world trade.

Worldwide, there were “consistently” more than 130,000 customs seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods annually in 2017, 2018, and 2019. “Overall,” the report continues, “the unified database on customs seizures of IP-infringing goods includes almost half [a] million observations.”

In 2017 and 2018, counterfeit cosmetics and perfumery products accounted for about 4 percent of all customs seizures. That rose to just under 10 percent in 2019 — a considerable jump in a very short time. Furthermore, cosmetics and perfumery products were among the Top 5 products “targeted by counterfeiters” every year from 2011 to 2019. (The others were articles of leather, clothing, footwear, and watches.)

What toll do counterfeit cosmetics take on the industry’s fiscal health? One report shows that annual sales losses from counterfeiting in cosmetics and personal care products sector amounted to 4.7 billion euros, or about $5.3 billion.

Our brand protection series talks more about counterfeits. It’s a real problem that every industry, some more than others, must contend with.

Counterfeit cosmetics in a huge global market

According to a Fortune Business Insights report published in September, the cosmetics market was worth $277.67 billion in 2020. Despite an overall decline in sales during the pandemic, the market is projected to grow to $415.29 billion by 2028.

The market has responded to consumer demand for a wider variety of products, and online shopping has added an ease of access. Online shopping will drive the market and, according to industry watchers, could account for nearly 30 percent of global beauty sales by 2026.

However, the dramatic shift from in-person to online purchasing during the pandemic has emboldened criminals to churn out more and more counterfeit cosmetic products. As OECD put in its “Global Trade in Fakes” report, “Under confinement, consumers turn to online markets to [fulfill] their needs, driving significant growth in the online supply of a wide range of counterfeits.”

Research from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security supports this finding. Its “Combating Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods” report (January 2020) noted that “Selling counterfeit and pirated goods through e-commerce platforms and related online third-party marketplaces is a highly profitable venture.”

The threat to businesses and consumers

Counterfeit cosmetic products are a real threat to manufacturers and consumers. The bogus goods mimic the original, undercutting company sales. They bypass quality control processes and regulatory oversight, which means they can contain harmful “ingredients.”

For example, in 2018 authorities in the United Kingdom recovered counterfeit cosmetics that were found to contain mercury and high levels of hydroquinone, a skin-whitening agent. UK Police have also warned consumers about fake products containing “rat droppings, human urine, and arsenic.” Police in Los Angeles found counterfeits with bacteria and animal waste.

With the surge in online orders, shipping has become important to the counterfeit industry. The OECD reported that between 2017 and 2019, 64 percent of global seizures were postal shipments and 13 percent involved express couriers. In the same period, 77 percent of all counterfeits seized by authorities were discovered during the shipping period.

Final thoughts

Counterfeit cosmetics — counterfeit anything — threaten consumer safety and brand reputations.

Your supply chain is your first line of defense. With the right solution for end-to-end traceability, like our rfxcel Traceability System, you can leverage data and lock down your supply chain guard to against counterfeits and help mitigate other risks.

You’ll also be able to meet consumer demand for transparency. You can tell them with certainty that your products are what you say they are. You’ll ensure product safety and protect your brand.

If you have questions, we can help. Take a look at our solutions for brand protection and download our white paper about the global cosmetics market. And contact us today to arrange a short demo of our Traceability System. In about 15 minutes, our supply chain experts can show how our solutions will turn your supply chain into your most valuable strategic asset.

Antares Vision Group, Through rfxcel, Announces EPCIS Center of Excellence to Enable DSCSA Serialization Requirements by 2023

The Center of Excellence is a dedicated group of solution providers that will work with the industry to accelerate the rollout of serialized data in advance of the November 27, 2023, DSCSA deadline.

Reno, Nevada, Dec. 7, 2021 (EINPRESSWIRE). Antares Vision Group, through rfxcel, today announced an EPCIS Center of Excellence (COE) to help pharmaceutical stakeholders prepare for upcoming serialization requirements in the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). rfxcel first introduced the COE at a Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) Quarterly Update on September 27.

Antares Vision Group is a global leader in creating end-to-end data connection ecosystems with solutions for quality, traceability, and data management for supply chains and digital factories. rfxcel is a global leader in digital supply chain traceability solutions and regulatory compliance.

DSCSA regulations will take effect on November 27, 2023, that require every supply chain partner to share unit-level product data electronically in a secure, interoperable manner. This data will include detailed transaction information and product identifiers, which include a unique serial number. At present, EPCIS — Electronic Product Code Information Services — is the most widely recognized international standard that will allow stakeholders to meet these requirements for transaction data connections.

rfxcel will coordinate with other recognized solution providers to develop processes to accelerate the rollout of EPCIS and ensure that serialized data is exchanged properly. rfxcel CEO Glenn Abood underlined that the COE is a group effort focused on the benefit all pharmaceutical supply chain participants.

“The EPCIS COE is an industry-wide undertaking that relies on the knowledge and expertise of every member,” Abood said. “The serialization deadline is just two years away, and rfxcel is excited to announce the COE and to be working with our peers to ensure the success of the DSCSA by meeting the requirements for accurate, high-quality data.”

rfxcel will provide regular updates about the COE’s activities and progress on its website. For more information, contact Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives Herb Wong at 925-791-3235 or hwong@rfxcel.com.

About Antares Vision Group

Antares Vision Group protects products, people, profits, and our planet with inspection systems featuring 6,500 quality controls, track and trace software solutions for end-to-end transparency and visibility in digital supply chains, and smart data management tools for maximum operational efficiency, from raw materials to final consumers. It provides solutions to five primary industries: pharmaceuticals and life sciences (medical devices and hospitals), food and beverage, cosmetics, and consumer packaged goods. Active in more than 60 countries, Antares Vision Group has seven production facilities and three Innovation and Research Centers in Italy, 22 foreign subsidiaries, and a global network of more than 40 partners. Today, 10 of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies use its solutions to secure their production and supply chain operations; worldwide, it has deployed more than 25,000 inspection systems and more than 3,500 serialization modules. Antares Vision Group has been listed on the Italian Stock Exchange’s AIM Italia market since April 2019 and in the STAR Segment of the Mercato Telematico Azionario (MTA) since May 2021. In March 2021, Antares Vision acquired 100 percent of rfxcel Corporation, which specializes in software solutions for digitalization and supply chain transparency.

About rfxcel

Part of Antares Vision Group, rfxcel has a long history of providing leading-edge software solutions to help companies build and manage their digital supply chain, lower costs, protect their products and brand reputations, and engage consumers. Blue-chip organizations in the life sciences (pharmaceuticals and medical devices), food and beverage, worldwide government, and consumer goods industries trust rfxcel’s Traceability System to power end-to-end supply chain solutions in track and trace, environmental monitoring, regulatory compliance, serialization, and visibility. Founded in 2003, the company is headquartered in the United States.

What is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act?

Today’s question: What is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act?

We’ve written extensively about the legislation, which was passed on November 27, 2013. But with the deadline for full compliance quickly approaching, we thought a quick overview was in order. So let’s answer the question, What is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act?

What Is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act?

If you’re a pharmaceutical company — a manufacturer, wholesaler, dispenser, repackager, or third-party logistics provider — you must comply with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) if you want to do business in the United States.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the goal of the DSCSA is “to build an electronic, interoperable system to identify and trace certain prescription drugs as they are distributed in the United States.” The Act “will enhance [the] FDA’s ability to help protect consumers from exposure to drugs that may be counterfeit, stolen, contaminated, or otherwise harmful” and “improve detection and removal of potentially dangerous drugs from the drug supply chain to protect U.S. consumers.”

The law has been rolled out in phases since it was passed nearly 10 years ago. Implementation culminates on November, 27, 2023, at which time the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain will be fully serialized.

Key requirements of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act

The FDA puts DSCSA requirements into the following categories:

1. Product identification/serialization

A unique product identifier (PI), such as a bar code, must be placed on certain prescription drug packages.

2. Product tracing

Stakeholders must provide information about a drug and who handled it each time it’s sold. This includes transaction information (TI), a transaction statement (TS), and a transaction history (TH), collectively known as “T3” information. Read our “Dispensers and DSCSA 2023” white paper for more about T3 information.

3. Product verification

Stakeholders must establish systems and processes to verify PIs for certain prescription drugs packages. The Verification Router Service (VRS) enables a rapid, secure exchange of data to do this. See more about VRS below.

4. Detection and response + notification

Stakeholders must quarantine and promptly investigate suspect or illegitimate drugs. They must also notify the FDA and other interested parties when they find such drugs.

5. Licensing

Wholesalers must report their licensing status and contact information to the FDA. Third-party logistics providers must obtain a state or federal license.

Looking forward

The FDA has delayed the rollout of the DSCSA two times, giving the industry extra time to prepare. However, an FDA official recently said there will be no more delays. November 27, 2023, is a done deal.

In terms of what’s next, take a look at our “DSCSA 2023: The Future of Pharmaceutical Traceability in the United States” blog post. This gets into the granular details of the transformation that’s going to happen in 2023, but here are the basics of what to expect:

Serialization

Serialization relies on product identifiers (the “PIs” we mentioned above), which include serial numbers and expiration dates. For 2023, all transaction information (the “TI” we mentioned above) must include the PI. TI includes the following:

  • The product name
  • The product’s strength and dosage form
  • The product’s National Drug Code
  • The container size and number of containers
  • The lot number
  • The transaction date
  • The shipment date
  • The name and address of the businesses from which and to which ownership is being transferred
Authorized trading partners

Put simply, the DSCSA says that if you’re not an authorized trading partner (ATP), your access to the U.S. pharma supply chain will be severely restricted or denied altogether. All manufacturers, wholesale distributors, repackagers, third-party logistics providers, and dispensers and their trading partners must be ATPs. We did a deep dive on ATPs earlier this year; read our two-part series here.

Verifying drugs

The DSCSA’s saleable returns verification requirement stipulates that wholesalers must verify all returned drugs before they can be reintroduced to the supply chain. This is done by verifying a drug’s PI. A wholesaler must initiate a verification request to the drug’s manufacturer, then the manufacturer must provide a verification response within 24 hours. The Verification Router Service — the VRS — is what enables the rapid, secure exchange of data between these parties. Like everything else in the DSCSA, we’ve written extensively about the VRS. Our “DSCSA Saleable Returns Verification Requirement: Just the Facts” article is a good place to start.

Final thoughts

What is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act? The DSCSA makes pharma stakeholders responsible for securing the U.S. supply chain. It doesn’t matter if you’re a manufacturer, wholesaler, repackager, third-party logistics provider, or a dispenser — the law affects how you conduct business. Your compliance depends on making sure you can meet your responsibilities.

That’s where rfxcel comes in.

A fully serialized pharma supply chain is just two years away. It’s important to use this time to get your systems in place. We have almost 20 years of experience providing the pharmaceutical industry with leading regulatory and compliance software. So if you aren’t sure if you’re going to be ready for DSCSA 2023 and want to see a short demo of our solutions — or just want to know more about your responsibilities — contact us today. Our DSCSA experts will work directly with you to design a solution that meets your specific needs, no matter your role in the supply chain.

In the meantime, you can hear directly from our experts in our “Plan for DSCSA Readiness” webinar and our DSCSA 2023 webinar series. These are great resources to help you better understand the law.

Drug Supply Chain Security Act Pharmacy Responsibilities

Drug Supply Chain Security Act pharmacy responsibilities are complex. They can be confusing. But the clock is ticking to be ready for the November 27, 2023, deadline. Let’s do a quick recap for pharmacies.

What is the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act?

The U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act, enacted on November 27, 2013, establishes a system to track and trace prescription drugs in a fully serialized supply chain. It calls for end-to-end traceability and electronic interoperability to prevent counterfeit, stolen, contaminated, or otherwise harmful drugs from entering the U.S. supply chain.

So far, the DSCSA has mostly focused on lot-level traceability — exchanging information about every package of medication so stakeholders can see exactly where it has been. Enactment culminates in November 2023, with complete unit-level serialization of the U.S. drug supply chain. This means stakeholders will have to electronically track products at the individual package level.

Drug Supply Chain Security Act pharmacy responsibilities: definitions

Pharmacies are referred to as “dispensers” in the DSCSA. The legislation defines a dispenser as “a retail pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, a group of chain pharmacies under common ownership and control that do not act as a wholesale distributor, or any other person authorized by law to dispense or administer prescription drugs, and the affiliated warehouses or distribution centers of such entities under common ownership and control that do not act as a wholesale distributor.”

If you dispense only products to be used in animals, you are not a dispenser under the DSCSA.

How to comply with the DSCSA

As we said above, the Drug Supply Chain Security Act pharmacy responsibilities are complex. Let’s break them down into easy-to-understand pieces.

You must exchange information about every drug you buy and who handled it each time it changes ownership in the United States.

The DSCSA calls this “product tracing information,” and it has three components, collectively referred to as “T3 information”:

  1. Transaction Information (TI) about a product (e.g., proprietary or established name or names and the strength and dosage form)
  2. Transaction Statement (TS), which is an electronic statement confirming the entity transferring ownership.
  3. Transaction history (TH), an electronic statement with the TI for every transaction going back to the manufacturer. TH is required until the November 27, 2023, deadline.
You must receive, store, and provide product tracing documentation

You can accept prescription drugs only if they have proper tracing information, and you must store the information for six years. You must also generate and provide all information when you sell a prescription drug to a trading partner.

You can only do business with authorized trading partners (ATPs)

And speaking of trading partners, if you can’t confirm your they’re licensed or registered, you can’t do business with them. If they’re not authorized, their access to the U.S. pharma supply chain will be severely restricted or denied altogether. Read our in-depth ATP blog series for all the details.

You must investigate and properly handle suspect and illegitimate drugs

Suspect and illegitimate drugs include drugs that may be counterfeit, diverted, stolen, intentionally adulterated, or unfit for distribution — the problem the DSCSA was designed to eliminate. Pharmacies must quarantine and investigate these drugs to determine if they are fake. If you make this determination, the next step is to work with the manufacturer and take specific action to ensure the bad drug does not reach patients/consumers. You must also notify the FDA and your trading partners about the drug.

You must authenticate and verify drugs

This is what’s coming in 2023. You’ll have to be able to authenticate and verify all the medicines you buy before you can sell them. The fundamental requirement is that TI (transaction information) must include a product identifier (PI), which includes serial numbers and expiration dates. The Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) is likely to be the standard the industry will use to enable this exchange.

Final Thoughts

We’re writing this on November 24, 2021. Yes, it’s the day before Thanksgiving. (Happy Thanksgiving!) It’s also almost exactly two years from the DSCSA implementation deadline. That may seem like a long time, but …

It is definitely not a long time. There’s a lot to do to ensure you’ll comply with your Drug Supply Chain Security Act pharmacy responsibilities. If you aren’t sure you’ll be ready, contact us to schedule a short demo of our DSCSA solutions. Our team of supply chain experts will design a solution to ensure you meet all DSCSA requirements and remain compliant forever.

And if you’re looking for something to read over the Thanksgiving holiday, download our “Dispensers and DSCSA 2023” white paper. It drills down into what we talked about today and is a great reference tool to have on hand as you prepare for the full serialization of the U.S. pharma supply chain.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What Are the Two Parts of the Drug Quality and Security Act?

The Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA) was enacted on November 27, 2013, to address gaps and oversights in the way compound medications — medications that are customized by combining, mixing, or altering two or more drugs to meet the needs of a specific patient — are prepared and distributed. It was a response to the inadvertent distribution of contaminated steroidal injections that killed 64 people and caused infections in 793 patients.

The DQSA comprises two pieces of legislation: The Compounding Quality Act and the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). Here’s a quick overview of each.

DQSA Part 1: The Compounding Quality Act

The goal of the Compounding Quality Act is to make compounded medicines safer for patients.  It established a registration system for pharmaceutical industry stakeholders that create sterile drugs (e.g., manufacturers and pharmacies). It also reinstated Section 503A of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), parts of which the Supreme Court in 2002 ruled unconstitutional.

Companies can register as an official outsourcing facility if they meet a specific set of criteria. Outsourcing facilities are usually larger companies that supply compounds to healthcare facilities such as pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics. The key requirements for outsourcing facilities under the Compounding Quality Act include the following:

  • They must report adverse events to the FDA twice a year.
  • They must submit reports about all compounded medications to the FDA twice a year
  • They must meet product labeling requirements.
  • They must agree to FDA inspections (according to a “risk-based schedule” and pay fees for any re-inspections.
  • They must pay a registration fee to the FDA.

Outsourcing facilities are also subject to increased quality standards and can be penalized for certain actions, including intentionally falsifying prescriptions for compounded medicines, failing to report adverse events or compounded medications to the FDA, making false claims about compounded medicines (i.e., false advertising), and selling medications with “not for resale” warnings.

All this said, it’s important to note that the FDA does not approve compounded drugs. The Agency does not verify their safety or effectiveness. Furthermore, compounded drugs do not have an FDA finding of manufacturing quality before they are marketed.

DQSA Part 2: The Drug Supply Chain Security Act

The DSCSA is a wide-ranging piece of legislation designed to prevent counterfeit, stolen, contaminated, or otherwise harmful drugs from entering the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain. It affects virtually every industry stakeholder, from manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers to repackagers, logistics providers, and dispensers (i.e., pharmacies). It is

Enacted in November 2013 and culminating with the November 2023 deadline, the ultimate goal of the DSCSA is a fully serialized pharmaceutical supply chain with full electronic operability. There are four core requirements:

  1. Product serialization
  2. Product tracing
  3. Verification (of product identifiers)
  4. Authorized trading partners

If you follow our blog, you know we’ve been writing about the DSCSA for years. For a longer summary, check out “Countdown to DSCSA 2023 Serialization: The Deadline Is Two Years Away.” For an in-depth look at what’s in store for 2023, read “DSCSA 2023: The Future of Pharmaceutical Traceability in the USA.”

Final thoughts

rfxcel has been the leading provider of regulatory and compliance software for the pharmaceutical industry for almost 20 years. We’ve also been a thought leader on the DQSA and DSCSA compliance. Our goal is to keep all stakeholders informed and work with them to ensure they’re ready to meet all the requirements in 2023.

Below are a few of our most recent resources to help bring you up to speed. Take a look, and if you have any questions or want to see a short demo of our DQSA and DSCSA solutions, contact us today. Our supply chain experts know the legislation inside and out and will work with you to design a solution that’s right for you.

Brand Protection Strategy and the Top Supply Chain Threats

We just did two articles about why your supply chain is vital to an effective consumer engagement strategy. Now we want to jump into brand protection strategy and your supply chain.

First, let’s define our terms. Although consumer engagement is a usually a dedicated effort to boost brand recognition and loyalty, it must always be considered part of your brand protection strategy. As we’ll see, getting your customers involved in fighting counterfeits and identifying disreputable sellers and other bad actors is critical. Let’s continue breaking this down.

Why do you need a brand protection strategy?

Do you want to protect your business? Your employees, your bottom line, your reputation, your supply chain, your intellectual property?

Of course you do. Your brand protection strategy is your firewall. It’s how you shield your business from things that can harm it. And many — if not most — of the factors that can harm your brand are directly related to your supply chain. These include counterfeits (also called fakes), diversion, theft, and insufficient traceability.

Top supply chain threats

Let’s take a closer look at the top supply threats your brand protection strategy should address.

Counterfeits and fakes

The joke is that the best way to fight counterfeits is to make products nobody wants to buy.

We know that’s not how it works, though, which is why counterfeits and fakes are the No. 1 brand protection concern. In fact, counterfeits and pirated products accounted for up to 3.3 percent of world trade in 2016.

That statistic comes from a 2019 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) entitled “Trends in Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods.” The OECD also found that trade in counterfeit and pirated goods was rising steadily despite stagnation in overall trade volumes. Based on 2016 customs seizure data, the value of imported fake goods worldwide was $509 billion, up from $461 billion in 2013.

But there’s a lot more to be concerned about. Counterfeits are of inferior quality and often contain harmful, even deadly, materials/ingredients. The people who make them, including children, often work for long hours in sweatshop conditions. Some may have been trafficked or coerced. Furthermore, it has been established that counterfeits are inextricably linked to organized crime.

The pandemic provided many examples counterfeits making their way into the global supply chain — fake vaccines, fake COVID-19 testing kits, fake masks, fake nitrile gloves. But counterfeiting affects every industry, from food and footwear to cosmetics and computers.

Diversion and theft

When your goods are in transit along your supply chain, you want them to reach their final destination as quickly and safely as possible. This is why diversion is another key consideration for a brand protection strategy.

Diversion is actually a two-pronged problem. Let’s use pharmaceuticals to illustrate. Many drugs must be kept within a certain temperature range or maintained under certain lighting or humidity conditions. Even the slightest delay could spell disaster — ruined products, which means patients might not get medicines on time.

Diversion can also indicate theft. If a truck goes off its prescribed route, bad actors might be hijacking it and your product could end up on unauthorized e-commerce sites (rogue websites) and other grey markets or black markets. If the diversion has compromised the integrity of your product — a drug, for example — people’s lives may be jeopardized.

Insufficient traceability

As we’ve discussed before, supply chain traceability brings tangible value to just about every part of your business, including your brand protection strategy. If you’re not taking traceability seriously, you’re not just opening the door to assaults on your brand; you’re risking problems with regulators, alienating (and losing) customers, and weakening your supply chain.

A recall is among the most damaging events that can happen to a brand, so let’s use it as case study. If you can trace a recalled item, you can better collaborate with trading partners and authorities and help to get the product out of the supply chain and out of stores. With traceability, you’re protecting consumers from a health hazard and safeguarding your brand from bad publicity. And with a transparent approach to engaging with customers about your products, you create a strong brand image that conveys trust, credibility, and reliability.

Traceability also helps fight counterfeits, diversion, and theft. The ability to trace and authenticate every product in your supply chain in real time, 24/7, is foundational to an effective brand protection strategy. We’ll get into those details in Part II of our brand protection series.

Final thoughts

At the end of August, the Office of the United States Trade Representative published a request for comments “that identify online and physical markets to be considered for inclusion in the 2021 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy (Notorious Markets List).”

Counterfeits have also been making headlines in recent weeks:

In this environment, a comprehensive brand protection strategy driven by granular supply chain data is your best defense against bad actors. rfxcel understands this. We can help you leverage your supply chain to combat counterfeits and the other concerns we addressed today. Our brand protection solutions will fortify your brand with data from a digital supply chain. Contact us today to learn more — and read Part II of our brand protection series.

Countdown to DSCSA 2023 Serialization: The Deadline Is Just Two Years Away

November 27, 2023 — the date the pharmaceutical industry has had its sights on since the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) was enacted eight years ago. With only two years until the deadline, we thought it was a good time to recap what’s in store for DSCSA 2023 serialization.

The DSCSA Timeline

As our timeline shows, November 27, 2023, will be the 10th anniversary of the DSCSA. Per Section 582(g)(1) of the DSCSA (Title II of the Drug Quality and Security Act), “On the date that is 10 years after the date of enactment of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act … interoperable, electronic tracing of product at the package level requirements shall go into effect.” In other words, DSCSA 2023 serialization.

DSCSA 2023 Serialization Timeline

DSCSA 2023 serialization: recent developments

No more delays. On August 9, 2021, the FDA signaled that the DSCSA 2023 deadline for interoperability would not change. Leigh Verbois, the director of the FDA’s Office of Drug Security, Integrity, and Response, made the comments during a webinar hosted by the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA).

Draft and final guidance on product identifiers (PIs) and more. On June 3, 2021, the FDA published “new guidance to further enhance the security of prescription drugs in the U.S. supply chain.” Guidance was released for PIs, suspect and illegitimate products, and enhanced drug distribution security.

Full serialization

For DSCSA 2023 serialization, transaction information (TI) must include the PI, which includes serial numbers and expiration dates. The Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) appears to be the standard the industry will use to enable this exchange. Right now, TI and transaction statements (TS) are being electronically exchanged at the lot level, which is usually done with an advance ship notice (ASN). The transition from ASN to EPCIS is a cornerstone of DSCSA 2023 serialization.

Authorized trading partners

Under the DSCSA, authorized trading partners (ATPs) may engage in transactions only with other ATPs. In other words, all manufacturers, wholesale distributors, repackagers, 3PLs, and dispensers and their trading partners must be ATPs. If they’re not authorized, their access to the U.S. pharma supply chain will be severely restricted or denied altogether. Read our in-depth ATP blog series here.

Verification Router Service (VRS)

Under the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement, wholesalers must verify saleable returns before they can be reintroduced to the supply chain. This is done by verifying the drug’s PI. A wholesaler must initiate a verification request (to a manufacturer) to verify the returned products, and the manufacturer must provide a verification response within 24 hours. The VRS enables the rapid, secure exchange of data between these parties. Get more details here.

Final thoughts

We have been talking about and reporting on the DSCSA Day 1. We’ve been active in industry initiatives, particularly the VRS and the Open Credentialing Initiative (OCI) to meet ATP requirements. We’re ensuring the Ohio Department of Veterans Affairs is DSCSA-compliant. And we’ll soon be announcing another exciting initiative in the move toward full serialization of the U.S. pharma supply chain. Keep an eye out for that.

This year, we hosted a “Plan for DSCSA Readiness” webinar in March and a DSCSA 2023 webinar series in June that covered ATPs, EPCIS, and the VRS. We also published a “Dispensers and DSCSA 2023” white paper in May.

We’ve also been helping pharma companies and public-sector organizations comply with the DSCSA and other pharma regulations around the world. From our Serialization Processing and Compliance Management solutions to the full-scale power of our Traceability System, we ensure compliance no matter your role in the supply chain.

Take another look at our DSCSA timeline. A lot has happened since 2013 — and the pace will only intensify over the next two years. Contact us today if you need to know more. Our supply chain and DSCSA experts are here to help and make sure you’re ready for 2023

 

FDA Official Says DSCSA 2023 Interoperability Deadline Will Not Change

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) appears to be digging in its heels and insisting pharma stakeholders be ready to comply with interoperability requirements by November 27, 2023, the deadline mandated in the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA).

Leigh Verbois, director of FDA’s Office of Drug Security, Integrity, and Response, indicated there would be no delays during a Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) webinar on August 9.

As reported by Regulatory Focus, Verbois said, “It is FDA’s goal that we not extend the November deadline for interoperability … We have been working at a full tilt to make sure that we can make our goal of an interoperable system by 2023.”

Verbois also said that the FDA was continuing to develop a framework for interoperability, adding that the Agency knew there were “a number of important issues” to address and that regulators had been “working to understand the interplay between the elements that are necessary to build a system.”

Director Verbois’ comments at the HDA webinar come just two months after the FDA published draft and final guidance on key aspects of the DSCSA: product identifiers, suspect and illegitimate products, and enhanced drug distribution security.

  1. Product Identifiers under the Drug Supply Chain Security Act: Questions and Answers (final guidance)
  2. Drug Supply Chain Security Act Implementation: Identification of Suspect Product and Notification Guidance for Industry (final guidance)
  3. Definitions of Suspect Product and Illegitimate Product for Verification Obligations Under the Drug Supply Chain Security Act Guidance for Industry (revised draft guidance)
  4. Enhanced Drug Distribution Security at the Package Level Under the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (new draft guidance)

What are the DSCSA interoperability requirements?

The DSCSA requires pharma supply chain trading partners to exchange transaction information (TI) “in a secure, interoperable, electronic manner in accordance with the standards established [through FDA guidance].”

Trading partners must provide TI and a transaction statement (TS) to the subsequent owner of a product “prior to, or at the time of, each transaction.” TI must “include the product identifier at the package level for each package included in the transaction.”

What’s changing in 2023?

Right now, TI and TS are being electronically exchanged at the lot-level, which is usually done with an advance ship notice (ASN).

In 2023, however, TI must include the product identifier, which includes serial numbers and expiration dates. This means the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain will be fully serialized, and the Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) appears to be the standard the industry will use to enable this exchange.

The transition from ASN to EPCIS is one of the “four pillars” of the regulations that we talked about in our three-part DSCSA 2023 webinar series in June, which you can view and download here. We also hosted a “Plan for DSCSA Readiness” webinar in March that you can view here.

DSCSA 2023 Four Pillars

Final thoughts

As we reported in our blog, the FDA has twice delayed enforcement of the DSCSA Saleable Returns Requirement. Now, the table seems to be set for November 2023: No more delays, no more extensions.

The pace will only intensify. In just about two years, you’ll have to be up and running in a fully serialized U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain. Now, the question we’ve been asking for so long is even more critical: Will you be ready?

In terms of interoperability, ask yourself these questions:

  • Can you send and receive serialized data?
  • Can you send and receive aggregated data?
  • Do you have procedures and training in place to support serialized data exchange?

Contact us today if you need to know more. Our supply chain and DSCSA experts are here to help.

 

 

 

Traceability in the Food Supply Chain

Traceability has always been an important part of the food supply chain. It helps ensure food safety, speeds recalls and investigations, and makes the food supply chain faster and more efficient. In recent years, however, there has been a stronger push for traceability from regulators and consumers alike.

Regulators, notably the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have developed new traceability requirements for food products, including rules governing specific types of food (i.e., those that are more prone to contamination), guidance for stakeholders to collect more data at every node of the food supply chain, and modern, digital systems to optimize safety and efficiency and aid recall management.

Similarly, consumers are demanding more information about the foods they eat. They want a demonstrable provenance of what they’re taking home to their families, “on-demand data” that demonstrates that foods are exactly what companies say they are. And if they don’t get this, they’re only too happy to take their business somewhere else — and let other people know that Brand XYZ isn’t living up their expectations of quality and transparency.

Every stakeholder in the food supply chain, from manufacturers and processors to distributors and retailers, has to think about traceability. If they don’t, they’re risking problems with regulators, alienating consumers, damaging their brand reputations, and, ultimately, putting their business in jeopardy.

This rfxcel white paper covers the fundamentals of traceability in the food supply chain. It describes how critical tracking events (CTEs) and key data elements (KDEs) build “digital assets” that can be traced (and tracked) from farm to fork. It takes an in-depth look at the FDA’s initiatives to modernize the U.S. food supply chain using digital technology, including the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the “New Era of Smarter Food Safety,” the “Food Traceability List,” and the pending “Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods,” also known as the Proposed Rule. It also describes the many benefits of food traceability, which include better consumer engagement and brand protection.