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Antares Vision Group Will Be at GS1 Connect 2022 in San Diego Next Month!

We’re getting excited for GS1 Connect, June 7-9 at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina! Not only are we a Premier Sponsor — we’ll be speaking about supply chain traceability and smart hospital systems.

We’ll also be at Booth 115 with our award-winning Traceability System, demonstrating solutions for the food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics industries.

So take 20 seconds (really) to sign up to meet us. We have a limited number of discount codes for 10 percent off your registration fee. And while you’re at Booth 115, take our short survey and you could win a $500 DoorDash gift card.

More about GS1 Connect and our speakers

The theme of this year’s conference is “Adapt.” The focus is on how businesses have used GS1 Standards to overcome challenges to thrive in uncertain times. There will be 40+ live sessions (including ours!), 50+ exhibitors (including us!), trading partner roundtables, and other events centered on user stories and leadership insights for supply chain optimization.

As GS1 says, the event is a place to “network with the greatest supply chain minds and learn how to leverage GS1 Standards to optimize your business.” Indeed.

In “Supply Chain Traceability: Can Your Business Survive Without It?” Herb Wong, our vice president of product and strategy, will discuss why traceability is foundational to business success in a rapidly evolving landscape of digitalization, ever-changing consumer expectations and power dynamics, tougher regulations, and supply chain uncertainty. He’ll be speaking on Thursday, June 9, at 1:45 p.m.

In on-demand session 509, “Smarter and Safer Hospitals: When Innovative Technologies Meet Patient Safety, our Digital Healthcare Department Director Adriano Fusco and Dr. Alberto Sanna, director of the Research Center for Advanced Technologies for Health and Well-Being of the IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, Italy, will discuss how traceability and GS1 Standards enable end-to-end visibility of medications from arrival at the hospital to dispensation and optimized resources to focus on patient safety.

Final thoughts

We’ve always valued GS1 Standards, and we’ve always ensured our customers can adhere to them and take full advantage of them to maximize efficiency and create value across their operations everywhere they do business.

And who took the time to note the 50th anniversary of the venerable Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)? We did, with a blog post devoted to GS1 barcodes.

As we said in that article, “Where would we be without standards?” We’d love to see you at GS1 Connect and talk about those standards and how they fuel traceability. We hope you’ll take those few seconds to sign up to meet us at Booth 115, get 10 percent off your registration, and enter to win a nice prize when you take our survey.

In the meantime, drop us a line if you have any questions or want to know more about our traceability solutions for pharma, food and beverage, cosmetics, and other industries. We never pass on an opportunity to talk about what makes us your best partner for end-to-end supply chain solutions, from L1 all the way to L5!

See you in San Diego June 7-9!

Brazil ANVISA Deadline Is Just Two Weeks Away. Here’s What You Need to Know.

The Brazil ANVISA deadline is just two weeks away. On April 28, 2022, pharmaceutical companies must comply with the serialization, reporting, and traceability requirements set out in the National Medicine Control System (SNCM), which the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency — ANVISA — signed into law a little more than five years ago.

If you follow our blog (and we know you do), you know we’ve covered ANVISA and the SNCM since Day 1. You could also probably guess that we weren’t going to miss this opportunity to share more update about what to expect as the Brazil ANVISA deadline countdown enters its final days. Let’s take one last look.

Brazil ANVISA deadline and the SNCM: A recap

The Brazil ANVISA deadline has been on the industry’s radar since the SNCM was passed on December 28, 2016 (as Law No. 13.410/2016). It regulations will help Brazil protect its almost 213 million citizens against common problems in the drug supply chain, such as counterfeits and theft.

The SNCM requires every pharma supply chain actor to capture, store, and exchange data electronically. All products must have a GS1 2D Data Matrix barcode with five data points:

  1. Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)
  2. A 13-digit ANVISA Medicine Registry Number
  3. A unique 13-digit serial number
  4. An expiration date (in the MM/YY format for human-readable form)
  5. A lot/batch number (up to 20 alphanumeric characters)

The ANVISA Medicine Registry Number, serial number, expiration date, and lot/batch number make up the Unique Medicine Identifier (Identificador Único de Medicamentos), or IUM, which must be printed on every product. Compliant labeling might look something like this:

Brazil ANVISA IUM

Overall, there are three key requirements for the April 28 Brazil ANVISA deadline:

  1. All prescription medicines must be serialized.
  2. All manufacturers and importers must have a “serialization plan” in the SNCM portal.
  3. All supply chain stakeholders must submit product event reports to the SNCM.

For serialization plans in the SNCM portal, manufacturers and importers must provide information about their relevant product lines and medicines. Manufacturers were also required to submit a serialization plan that includes all steps and actions they would take to become compliant by the deadline.

Final thoughts

As we said above, this is our last look at the Brazil ANVISA deadline and SNCM requirements before April 28. However, it is most definitely not the last you’ll hear from us about Brazil’s pharma market and how it’s being regulated. We will continue monitoring the situation, posting updates, and answering your questions — always.

Undoubtedly, we’ve established ourselves as a leader in solutions for Brazil ANVISA and the SNCM. We’ve fine-tuned our software to help manufacturers and other pharma stakeholders achieve SNCM compliance, and we’ve prioritized assisting companies to be 100 percent compliant throughout the long rollout of the regulations. We’ve also built a dedicated São Paulo-based team that’s been extraordinarily active and involved every step of the way.

So, if you hear this or that provider saying they’re the only company offering a comprehensive solution, platform, or framework for SNCM compliance — or any other compliance requirements — be skeptical. Then contact us to get the straight talk about what you need to do and how our compliance and supply chain traceability solutions will get you where you need to be quickly and efficiently, no matter where you do business.

Keep an eye on the April 28 Brazil ANVISA deadline and drop us a line if you have questions!

DSCSA EPCIS Update: 3 Questions for rfxcel Vice President of Strategy and Innovation Herb Wong

Herb Wong’s a busy guy. As vice president of strategy and innovation at rfxcel, he’s always on the go, advising and conferring with customers, talking and brainstorming with industry leaders, dashing off to speak at conferences, and thinking of new ways to improve … everything. So we were happy that he found time to talk with us about what’s happening with DSCSA EPCIS.

Our chat comes as Herb is fresh off an appearance at the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) Distribution Management Conference in Austin, Texas, where he participated in the “EPCIS Standards and Implementation Process” panel discussion. HDA also recently published a DSCSA EPCIS Implementation Benchmarking Survey about the progress of adoption and trading partner plans for sending data.

Here’s the scoop:

Herb, what has the EPCIS Center of Excellence learned about industry readiness for the DSCSA EPCIS requirements?

Well, the EPCIS COE, which we introduced at the HDA Quarterly Update in September last year, has discovered a number of things through our studies and meetings. Here are takeaways in the key areas of education, consistency, and standards.

As we get closer to the November 2023 deadline, new participants are less knowledgeable about EPCIS and DSCSA. Their integrations take more time and they have more questions and need more education. This was a recurring theme we started hearing during our EPCIS COE interviews. Because of this, the HDA and GS1 are looking to see how they can offer/repackage training to get the industry up to speed.

In terms of consistency, we are looking into developing a common, consistent process for all solution providers to begin an EPCIS exchange. This can improve the efficiency across all supply chain partners.

And for standards, we have been discussing a process or tool to have all participants verify that their EPCIS data is formatted correctly before they begin exchanging it with others. GS1 developed an offering for this and everyone agrees that it’s a good idea; but determining who pays for this testing has been challenging.

How has the industry reacted to the EPCIS COE’s efforts?

Overall, everyone has been receptive. But this is a huge undertaking. It reminds me of the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer: “One spoonful at a time.” Accelerating EPCIS data exchange is like that. It’s so big that people don’t know exactly where to start.

The answer is to just start somewhere and then learn and improve. The hardest part is getting started. Once we decide on a few areas where we can make an impact, momentum will keep us moving forward. We are in the process of agreeing on what we can do, so stay tuned!

What are your thoughts about industry readiness?

A number of supply chain partners asked me this question at the HDA Distribution Management Conference in Austin earlier this month. The industry is becoming more focused on the deadline. Everyone is realizing that the time for open-ended discussion is coming to a close and decisions must be made. We have 19 months to be ready for DSCSA 2023 and a lot of different efforts must be aligned.

Final thoughts

Herb Wong, everyone!

We hope Herb’s answers were helpful and shed light on the industry’s efforts to be ready for the DSCSA EPCIS requirements. As he said, it’s an elephant-sized undertaking with a lot of moving parts that need coordination and consensus. The EPCIS COE is “the spoon” that’s helping the pharmaceutical industry digest the requirements, address the challenges, and get everyone compliant by November 27, 2023.

If you still have questions, your first step should be to contact us. One of our supply chain experts can explain the requirements and how our solutions will get your house in order. If you like, we can probably arrange a meeting with Herb. So reach out today and let’s talk.

We also encourage you to browse our DSCSA Compliance Library. It’s a clearinghouse of information with links to our blog posts, white papers, webinars — everything — about the law, including EPCIS requirements.

Last, we want to let you know that in June Herb will head to San Diego to speak at the GS1 Connect 2022 conference. On Thursday, June 9, he’ll present “Supply Chain Traceability: Can Your Business Survive Without It?” Herb will discuss why traceability is foundational to business success and how companies in any industry can leverage traceability in a digital supply chain to ensure they comply with regulations and much more. Check back for updates as we get closer to June!

African Pharmaceutical Regulations: The African Medicines Agency and the Push for Harmonization

Welcome to the last installment of our Africa supply chain series. Part 1 talked about geography, demographics, and the economy, and Part 2 was about challenges and opportunities. Today, we’re tackling the complex landscape of African pharmaceutical regulations.

Specifically, we’re looking at the African Medicines Agency (AMA), envisioned as a single regulatory body that would cover all 54 countries on the continent. It’s a big topic, but we’ll break it down into easy-to-understand terms. Let’s get started.

African pharmaceutical regulations: defining the key players and terminology

To understand African pharmaceutical regulations, you have to know the key players and be familiar with some core vocabulary. Today, we’re talking in broad terms to establish some baseline knowledge; if you want to know more about any of the entries below, just click on the linked text.

African Medicines Agency (AMA): According to its business plan, the AMA’s vision is “a healthy African population with access to quality, safe, and efficacious medical products and technologies.” It was established in January 2015 and officially began in November 2021 after 15 countries signed and ratified the AMA Treaty and deposited their instruments of ratification with the African Union Commission (see below). The AMA does not yet have a website; visit the African Union website for more information.

African Medicines Regulatory Harmonization (AMRH): Formalized in 2009, the AMRH is an initiative to “provide leadership in creating an enabling regulatory environment for pharmaceutical sector development in Africa.” It is part of the African Union Development Agency (see below) and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA).

African Union (AU): The AU was launched in 2002, succeeding the Organization of African Unity, which was active from 1963 to 1999. It comprises five regions and has 55 members: Central Africa (9 states), Eastern Africa (14 states), Northern Africa (7 states), Southern Africa (10 states), and Western Africa (15 states).

African Union Commission (AUC): The AUC is the AU’s secretariat and runs the day-to-day activities of the Union. It is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD): AUDA-NEPAD’s mandate is to “coordinate and execute regional and continental projects to promote regional integration towards the accelerated realization of Agenda 2063” and “strengthen capacity of AU member states and regional bodies.” (See Part 1 of our series for more about Agenda 2063 and read the AUDA-NEPAD 2021 Annual Report here.)

National Medicines Regulatory Authorities (NMRAs): Each country’s NMRA is responsible for regulatory functions such as marketing authorization, pharmacovigilance, market surveillance quality control, clinical trials oversight, licensing establishments, and laboratory testing.

Regional Economic Communities (RECs): RECs are regional groupings of African countries formed to facilitate regional economic integration and the wider African Economic Community. The AU recognizes eight RECs:

    1. Arab Maghreb Union (UMA)
    2. Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
    3. Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD)
    4. East African Community (EAC)
    5. Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)
    6. Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
    7. Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)
    8. Southern African Development Community (SADC)

Regional Centers of Regulatory Excellence (RCORE): AUDA-NEPAD, through AMRH, designated 11 RCOREs to work in eight regulatory functions to build regulatory capacity at NMRAs:

African pharmaceutical regulations: current context

With the AMA going into force barely five months ago, and considering the vastness of the African continent and the diversity of its countries, it should be no surprise that the current context for African pharmaceutical regulations is … one of flux.

Authorities (e.g., the AU and AUDA-NEPAD), through the NMRAs and RCORES, as well as through coordination with the RECs, are working through the many challenges of harmonizing regulations. There are a lot of moving parts that need to coalesce under the AMA umbrella. For example:

Different legal and regulatory frameworks. Many countries and RECs have developed or are developing their own regulatory legislation. But right now, it appears they are not obligated to coordinate, standardize, or harmonize their laws. Therefore, regulations can vary from country to country in a REC, and any country’s laws might also diverge from their REC’s requirements. Regulations also vary from REC to REC, such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the East African Community (EAC), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Furthermore, legal and regulatory frameworks can be unclear and incomplete, and authorities may not make public announcements about their intentions, timelines, and progress. Manufacturers and other supply chain stakeholders may have to submit paperwork to more than one NMRA, which duplicates efforts and wastes resources.

Need for capacity-building. A March 2021 article in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice noted that all but one country had an NMRA or “an administrative unit conducting some or all expected NMRA functions,” but only 7 percent had “moderately developed capacity” and more than 90 percent had “minimal to no capacity.” Complicating matters, some NMRAs operate as independent organizations and some operate within their country’s Ministry of Health.

Reliance on imports and the problem of counterfeits. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that Africa imports about 94 percent of its pharmaceutical and medicinal needs at an annual cost of $16 billion. This is a regulatory and logistical challenge. It also means there are plenty of opportunities for illegal activity. We noted in Part 2 that 42 percent of all fake medicines reported to the WHO from 2013 to 2017 came from Africa. The WHO also estimates that one of every 10 medical products in low- and middle-income countries is substandard or fake, while another report says up to 70 percent of pharmaceuticals could be fake in developing regions.

The AMA

These disparities, capacity needs, and logistical challenges were among the reasons why the AU wanted to establish a continental regulatory system. And like other regulatory systems, the AMA is designed to protect people, to ensure that all Africans have access to safe, efficacious, and affordable products that meet international standards.

The AMA is based on the AU Model Law on Medical Products Regulation. In broad terms, its goal is harmonization by achieving the following:

      • Registration and marketing of health technologies
      • Granting manufacturing and distribution licenses
      • Conducting quality and safety inspection of health technologies and manufacturing facilities
      • Authorizing clinical trials through an established National Ethics Committee or Institutional Review Board
      • Overseeing appeals procedures through an established Administrative Appeals Committee

International reaction to the AMA has been mostly positive. The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, for example, said that the “AMA has the unique opportunity to become one of the most efficient and modern regulatory systems in the world.”

And just last month before a two-day EU-AU summit, the EU (including the European Commission, the European Medicines Agency, and member states Belgium, France, and Germany) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced they would mobilize more than 100 million euros over the next five years to support the AMA and other pharma regulatory initiatives at regional and national levels.

As of March 3, 2022, 30 African countries had backed the AMA: 19 had signed and ratified the AMA Treaty and deposited their instruments of ratification with the African Union Commission; two had signed and ratified but not deposited; and nine had signed but not ratified. Thirteen countries have said they’d want to be home to the AMA headquarters.

Still, 25 countries have not signed the AMA Treaty, including South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia, four of the most important economies on the continent.

Final thoughts

African pharmaceutical regulations and the AMA are evolving. And like all regulations, there will be stops and starts.

The important takeaway is this: The pharma industry must be prepared for the continent-wide AMA regulations and the AU’s vision of a single authority working with a harmonized set of standards. Though there are holdouts, Egypt, Africa’s third most populous country and an important economic power, has ratified and deposited the treaty. This is a significant event in the efforts to get those countries on board with the AMA.

Preparation is the key to compliance and keeping your supply chain running. And we’re experts in making sure you’re prepared for regulations — and every other aspect of supply chain management and optimization — everywhere you do business. Pharmaceutical companies rely on our solutions to comply with strict regulations and to get the most out of their supply chains, from harvesting rich, actionable data in real time to leveraging serialization technology for brand protection and consumer engagement.

Contact us today to speak with one of our experts. In just a few minutes, they can show how our Traceability System will optimize your supply chain today and, importantly, ensure you’re prepared for what’s coming tomorrow.

And if you’re like us and just can’t get enough of regulations and compliance, download our updated “Pharmaceutical Compliance: A Global Overview” white paper. We’ve added more than 25 countries, including REC member states, expanded our “rfxcel Compliance Resources” section, and a lot more. Get it today!

Last but not least, take a look at our other news from the Africa and Middle East region:

Uzbekistan ASL BELGISI Update: Deadline for Pharma Serialization Extended

On February 7, 2022 — just 10 days after we posted our Uzbekistan ASL BELGISI update — the country’s State Tax Committee announced that it was “extending the timeframe for the phased introduction of mandatory digital markings” of pharmaceutical products.

The requirements were originally scheduled to take effect on February 1.

The extension was announced in a letter signed by Mubin Mirzaev, the first deputy chairman of the State Tax Committee. A new deadline was not stipulated, so the country’s serialization scheme for pharmaceuticals is effectively on hold until further notice. The letter did not mention 2022 deadlines for other regulated product categories (e.g., tobacco products; alcohol, including wine and wine products; beer and brewing products; appliances; and water and soft drinks).

Delay or not, we expect the serialization and labeling requirements, which are based on Russia’s Chestny ZNAK system, to remain the same. Read our Uzbekistan ASL BELGISI update for more details about the regulations.

More provisions for Uzbekistan ASL BELGISI from the State Tax Committee

Deputy Chairman Mirzaev’s letter outlined two provisions:

      • A provision to instruct the State Tax Committee and CRPT Turon, which operates Uzbekistan ASL BELGISI, to submit proposals to the country’s Cabinet of Ministers for a system to recognize marking codes from other countries, “primarily markings applied [in] the territory of the Russian Federation.”
      • A provision to “implement a mechanism for electronic registration of non-resident foreign manufacturers of pharmaceutical products with the tax authorities.” Manufacturers would be assigned a non-resident taxpayer identification number (TIN) and would have to obtain a non-resident electronic digital signature (EDS).

The letter also said that the “norms for amending the Technical Regulations for the production of pharmaceutical products were transferred from the project for labeling ‘household appliances’ to the project for mandatory digital labeling of pharmaceutical products.”

As we wrote in our Uzbekistan ASL BELGISI update, a pilot for appliances began on July 1, 2021, and mandatory labeling is being introduced in phases. Vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, TVs, and monitors were required to be labeled beginning December 1, 2021.

Final thoughts

The Uzbekistan ASL BELGISI delay illustrates a truth about supply chain regulations: Deadlines change. All the time. Announcements like the one we talked about today should never come as a surprise or catch you off guard.

The good news is that deadline changes are not the end of the world. What’s important is for you to have a supply chain solution that meets established standards, such as the world-leading GS1 standard. If your solution is fast, flexible, scalable, and automated — like our Traceability System — you will be ready to comply and keep your supply chain moving. All the time.

We’ll continue to monitor Uzbekistan ASL BELGISI as we do with other supply chain regulations. In just the last two weeks or so, we’ve written about the Africa supply chain (first of a two-part series), Egypt’s pharmaceutical regulations, Russia Chestny ZNAK requirements for beer and dietary supplements, the United Arab Emirates’ “Tatmeen” platform, and the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). Count on us to keep you informed about regulations around the world.

And contact us if you have any questions or want to see our solutions in action. Our digital supply chain experts are always here to listen to you, help you evaluate your needs, and work directly with you to design a solution customized for your business.

Understanding the Africa Supply Chain, Part 1

Supply chains are about people. Yes, technology — like the digital solutions we provide — and regulations are important, but people are the true drivers, the alpha and omega. People design supply chains and make them run (efficiently and legally, we all hope). As consumers, people are the final destination of every supply chain; if you don’t understand their needs, wants, and habits, and if your products cannot reach them reliably, you’re out of business. The Africa supply chain is no exception.

In Part 1 of our series about the Africa supply chain, we’re looking at facts and figures about the almost 1.4 billion people on the continent. By understanding the people — where they live, their economies and how they work, and ambitious initiatives that will affect their daily lives — we provide the context for a broader discussion and understanding of the Africa supply chain. Let’s get started.

Africa by the numbers

Geography and population

Africa is big. It’s about 11.7 million square miles (30.3 million square km) total, and about 5,000 miles (8,000 km) from north to south and 4,600 miles (7,400 km) from east to west. Only Asia is bigger: 17.2 million square miles (almost 44.6 million square km).

There are 54 countries in Africa. As we said above, the population is approximately 1.4 billion — that’s about 17 percent of the world population. For comparison, there are roughly 4.6 billion people in Asia, 748 million in Europe, 654 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, 370 million in North America, and 42.5 million in Oceana. Africa is also the youngest continent in the world: The median age is 19.7 years. According to the World Bank, half of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa will be under 25 by 2050.

Africa has the highest growth rate in the world, and its population has increased every year since 2000, when it was approximately 811 million. By 2100, the population will approach parity with Asia. Nigeria is the most populous country, with 206 million people, followed by Ethiopia, which has 115 million. Egypt ranks third — 102 million people — and is the most populous country in in North Africa. (Be sure to read our overview of the Egypt pharmaceutical supply chain to learn about what’s happening there.)

The continent is home to between 1,500 and 2,000 languages, about one-third of the world’s languages. At least 75 of those have more than 1 million speakers.

Urbanization

Africa has led the world in urbanization this decade. As of 2021, 609 million people lived in urban areas; this could reach 722 million by 2026. According to the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 22 cities in Africa are expected to grow at an average annual rate of more than 5 percent in the first half of the 2020s, and 58 are expected to grow at 4-5 percent. The two fastest-growing cities in the world are Gwagwalada, Nigeria, and Kabinda, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Cities in Angola, Tanzania, and Mozambique are topping current growth statistics, and by 2035, Africa’s fastest-growing cities are forecasted to be Bujumbura, Burundi, and Zinder, Nigeria.

Proliferation of mobile technology

According to the GSMA, an association representing mobile network operators around the world, 495 million people — 46 percent of the population — were subscribed to mobile services in Sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2020. This was an increase of almost 20 million over 2019. By 2025, adoption of 4G will double to 28 percent (the global average is 57 percent), and 5G will reach 3 percent of total mobile connections.

GSMA reports that 40 percent of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 15. Overall, Africa’s very young population will drive mobile use. Importantly, we can also assume that this demographic will use their mobile devices for everything from banking and shopping to entertainment, creating opportunities for companies to connect to consumers and involve them in the Africa supply chain.

Economy

Pre-pandemic, United Nations statistical data showed that Africa’s economy grew by about 3.4 percent in 2019, “creating one of the longest stretches of uninterrupted positive economic expansion in [the continent’s] history.” This helped fuel a growth of the middle class year over year.

In 2020, Africa experienced a 3.4 percent contraction in gross domestic product (GDP).

According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Industrial Development Report 2022: The Future of Industrialization in a Post-Pandemic World, the pandemic has caused considerable output loss in Africa, as it has in most of world. Here are projected output losses by 2021 for the “economy groups” in Africa:

    • North Africa (four economies): 7.3 percent
    • Less-developed countries (14 economies): 6.8 percent
    • Sub-Saharan Africa (12 economies): 6.4 percent

For perspective, estimated output losses were 7.5 percent in West Asia (5 economies), 4.1 percent in Northern and Western Europe (4 economies), 2.7 percent in North America and Pacific (4 economies), 10.3 percent in less-developed countries in Asia, and 1.4 percent in China.

According to a quick online survey of Africa-based websites, the top job sectors on the continent are agriculture, which accounts for 15 percent of GDP; infrastructure; mining; service; banking and finance; information and communications technology; entrepreneurship; entertainment; and tourism. See here and here for more information.

In 2020, 453 million people were employed in Africa, with the majority in Eastern Africa. The two most populous countries, Nigeria and Ethiopia, had the highest working populations, about 56.6 million and 51.3 million, respectively.

According to the World Bank, regional growth in Africa projections look like this:

    • Sub-Saharan Africa: Growth for 2022 and 2023 will remain just below 4 percent.
    • East and Southern Africa: Growth of 3.4 percent in 2022; excluding Angola and South Africa, 4.3 percent growth is expected in 2022.
    • West and Central Africa: Growth of 5.3 percent in 2022; the West African Economic and Monetary Union (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte D’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo) is projected to grow at 6.1 percent in 2022. Nigeria is expected to grow by 2.9 percent (African Development Bank Group).

Agenda 2063 and the Africa Supply Chain

Agenda 2063 “is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.” It is being implemented through five 10-year plans, the first of which is scheduled to end next year. Many of its Flagship Projects relate to modernizing and expanding infrastructure; therefore, they are directly related to the Africa supply chain. For example:

African High-Speed Train Network: The network will connect all countries’ capitals and commercial centers, including connecting the 16 landlocked countries to major seaports and neighboring countries.

Single African Air-Transport Market (SAATM): The goal is “the full liberalization of intra-African air transport services in terms of market access [and] traffic rights for scheduled and freight air services by eligible airlines, thereby improving air services connectivity and air carrier efficiencies.”

Continental Commodities Strategy: The goal is to move Africa away from being a raw materials supplier to “developing [its] commodities as a driver for achieving the structural, social, and economic transformation of the continent.” Integrating into regional and global value chains is a key part of the strategy.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): The goal is to accelerate intra-African trade and boost Africa’s “trading position in the global market by strengthening [its] common voice and policy space in global trade negotiations.” Thirty-six countries had ratified the AfCFTA agreement as of February 5, 2021.

Final thoughts

To understand your supply chain, you have to understand people. We hope this overview of Africa was informative, showing where people live, how they work, the continent-wide trends, and what’s being done to ensure the Africa supply chain better serves every person in all 54 countries.

Everything we’ve talked about today influences the Africa supply chain; however, urbanization could be the most telling and important. As cities continue to grow — remember, urban populations are projected to reach 722 million by 2026 — people will demand more access to goods and services, and the supply chain will have to respond nimbly and efficiently. The proliferation of mobile devices and networks, especially among young people, is another important driver.

rfxcel understands supply chains. The technology, the regulations, and how they affect people. Move on to Part II of our Africa supply chain series, where we discuss recent developments and regulations in specific countries. And be sure to contact us if you have any questions or want a short demonstration of our solutions. We’d love to hear from you.

Last but not least, take a look at our other news from the Africa and Middle East region:

Egypt Pharmaceutical Supply Chain: News and Regulations

If you follow our blog (and we know you do), you’ve probably detected a theme over the last few days: global pharma compliance. We’ve written about Russia Chestny ZNAK, United Arab Emirates Tatmeen, Uzbekistan ASL BELGISI, and our rfxcel DSCSA Compliance Library. Today, we’re looking at the Egypt pharmaceutical supply chain. Let’s get started.

Notable news about the Egypt pharmaceutical supply chain

Last August, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli told a gathering of government officials that the country would prioritize the “localization” of the pharma industry. He said President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had tasked the government with developing an executive plan to this end.

It seems to be working: the Egypt pharmaceutical supply chain is enjoying strong growth. Last month, Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA) Director Dr. Tamer Essam said the country’s pharma exports had risen to 35 percent, an all-time high. “There is no medicine in the world or vaccine that is not manufactured in Egypt,” he said. In February 2021, the EDA announced it was launching an export subsidy initiative and had begun reviewing and updating all export procedures to ensure they complied with global regulatory requirements.

In April 2021, the head of the General Division of Drug Traders at the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (FEDCOC), Ali Auf, said Egypt produced about 85 percent of its pharmaceutical needs domestically (and imported only 15 percent).

Auf made these statements two days after President Sisi inaugurated Gypto Pharma City, which embodies Egypt’s drive for pharmaceutical self-sufficiency. Situated on roughly 44.5 acres in Khanka, about 20 miles from Cairo, it’s one of the largest “medicine cities” in the region. It has facilities for production, administration, industrial services, and networks.

Egypt envisions Gypto Pharma City as a regional hub for the international pharmaceutical and vaccine industries, calling it “one of the most important national projects … with the aim of possessing the modern technological and industrial capacity in this vital field.”

The Egyptian Pharmaceutical Track & Trace System

The goal of the Egyptian Pharmaceutical Track & Trace System (EPTTS) is end-to-end traceability and product authentication across the Egypt pharmaceutical supply chain to reduce counterfeits, increase efficiency, and protect consumers. Appropriately, this dovetails into what the government has said about Gypto Pharma City — that it will “help citizens obtain high-quality and safe pharmacological treatment, end monopolistic practices, and control the prices of medicines.”

At first, the Ministry of Health and Population managed EPTTS; however, Law No. 151 of August 2019 essentially transferred those duties to the newly formed EDA. (It also created another organization, the Egyptian Authority for Unified Drug Procurement, a “centralized procurement and supply interface.”) The EDA was initially affiliated to the prime minister, but Presidential Decree 18/2020 of January 2020 gave it more autonomy.

The EDA “inherited” three organizations from the Ministry of Health and Population:

    • The Central Administration of Pharmaceutical Affairs (CAPA) registers pharma products, issues licenses for the establishment of pharma entities, and licenses the import and export of pharma products. It’s also responsible for regulating prices and evaluating clinical trials and studies of drugs.
    • The National Organization for Drug Control and Research (NODCAR) works to ensure the quality, safety, and effectiveness of pharma products, cosmetics, and insecticides. NODCAR must certify every pharmaceutical product before it can be registered, marketed, advertised, distributed, imported, or exported.
    • The National Organization for Research and Control of Biologicals (NORCB) monitors, inspects, and releases all biological products for human or animal use, such as vaccines.

Like most countries, the Egypt pharmaceutical supply chain follows GS1 labeling standards, characterized by Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), Serialized Global Trade Item Numbers (SGTINs), 2D DataMatrix codes, GS1-128 barcodes, serial shipping container codes (SSCCs), and Global Location Numbers (GLNs). It is also using GS1’s Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) standard.

Secondary packaging must be marked with a 2D DataMatrix code with the GTIN, expiry date, batch number, and a randomized serial number. EPTTS’ original plan was to require these data points to be presented in a specific sequence, but this was nixed. Cases and pallets must have a GS1-128 barcode or a DataMatrix code with the SSCC.

EPTTS requires aggregation, including maintaining the parent-child relationship, but has yet to provide details. We’re also waiting for specifics about some aspects of serialization, including if serial numbers can be reused.

For data and compliance reporting, supply chain actors are required to submit data to a GS1 Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) database. They must upload photos — as many as six of them — that clearly show the product packaging and other details, including the GTIN, brand name, storage instructions, country of origin, product name, and any warning statement. To date, however, the government hasn’t published specifications for communicating with the EPTTS database.

A pilot to test EPTTS was held from December 1, 2019, to January 12, 2020. Participants have shared feedback, but there hasn’t been much movement since. GS1 Egypt and the EDA are apparently still working on the implementation guidelines, which are now in their third iteration.

Final thoughts

The Egypt pharmaceutical supply chain regulations are a work in progress, and we’ll continue to follow developments and share updates when there’s concrete news.

But as we said in our overview of UAE Tatmeen, the global push for pharmaceutical traceability and serialization is continuing at a furious pace. If you’re a manufacturer, a distributor, a third-party logistics provider, a dispenser — any actor in the supply chain — waiting for Egypt or any other country to formalize their regulations is not a wise strategy. You have to have a solution now, preferably one that will work in every country.

That’s what our Traceability System does. Our supply chain experts can demonstrate in a few minutes how it automates compliance and optimizes just about every other aspect of your operations. Contact us today to see it in action. And continue following our blog. We’ll be writing more about global pharma regulations in the coming weeks (and months and years).  For example:

UAE Pharmaceutical Products Traceability Requirements for 2022: “Tatmeen” Platform

The global push for pharmaceutical traceability and serialization continues at a furious pace. Today, we’re looking at the United Arab Emirates (UAE), whose Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) in June 2021 announced the “Tatmeen” platform for UAE pharmaceutical products traceability. There are key deadlines this year, so let’s take a look.

UAE Pharmaceutical Products Traceability and the Tatmeen System

MOHAP established Tatmeen, which means “assurance” in Arabic, in Ministerial Decree No. 73 on June 14, 2021. Described as a “central command center,” it’s a GS1-based platform for UAE pharmaceutical products traceability. MOHAP’s partners include the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), Department of Health (Abu Dhabi), and EVOTEQ, a “digital transformation catalyst” based in the UAE, and GS1 UAE.

Tatmeen’s goals should sound familiar:

    • Fight counterfeits and illegal and substandard medications
    • Eliminate unauthorized imports
    • Improve recall management
    • Ensure expired and about-to-expire drugs don’t reach consumers
    • Forecast demand and avoid shortages
    • Move drugs where they’re needed quickly and safely
    • Protect pharma companies, including their intellectual property rights

These other aspects should also sound familiar:

    • Products are scanned at every node of the supply chain
    • Product information is reported into to a central repository (in this case GS1’s BrandSync platform)
    • Scanning captures and verifies data in real time and reports information into a central database
    • Hospitals and pharmacies scan when drugs arrive at their facility and when they’re dispensed
    • Patients and consumers can scan with mobile devices to validate products, report expired products, fakes, and suspected gray market activity

Tatmeen will integrate with the DHA’s electronic medical record system, Salama (incorrectly identified as “Salam” in some industry sources). It will also utilize DHA’s Tarmeez, a paperless drug and medical supplies management system that gives authorized users access to a centralized electronic catalog of all available inventory.

Tatmeen labeling and reporting requirements

All conventional medicines sold, distributed, or stored in the UAE are regulated and must be serialized. These products are exempt:

    • Free samples
    • Products imported for personal use only
    • Medical devices and supplies
    • General sales list (GSL) products

And —surprise, surprise — UAE pharmaceutical products traceability requirements should sound familiar. Secondary packaging must contain four data points in a GS1 DataMatrix code and in human-readable form:

    1. Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)
    2. Randomized serial number (up to 20 characters)
    3. Expiry date (in YYMMDD format)
    4. Batch or lot number

This example is adapted from the MOHAP’s serialization guide:

UAE DataMatrix Code

Aggregation requirements should also ring a bell: All logistic units must be aggregated and labeled with a GS1-128 barcode encoded with a serial shipping container code (SSCC). Manufacturers are responsible for aggregation.

If a brand owner regards an item as a trade item, “it may additionally be identified with a GTIN.” Distributors, wholesalers, and health facilities that unpack and re-pack products to deliver to points of dispensing are required to aggregate the logistic units using their own SSCC codes.

Marketing authorization holders (MAHs), brand owners, manufacturers, or their subsidiaries must register and upload the mandated product master data into the BrandSync platform.

Domestic and foreign manufacturers, third-party logistics providers, batch releasers, contract manufacturing organizations, distributors, licensing agents, and MAHs are responsible for collecting serialized product item traceability records and reporting them to Tatmeen.

UAE pharmaceutical products traceability rollout and 2022 deadline

There was a 6-month “status adjustment” period after Tatmeen was announced for manufacturers and marketing authorization holders to register with the BrandSync platform and begin using 2D DataMatrix codes. This deadline passed on December 13, 2021.

The next major deadline is December 13, 2022. By that date, all supply chain actors in the UAE must obtain a Global Location Number (GLN) from GS1 UAE to identify their organization, where it’s located, and other required information. Relevant stakeholders must also begin reporting serial numbers to Tatmeen and begin aggregation with GS1-128 barcodes and SSCCs.

Final thoughts

We noted a few times that parts of the Tatmeen regulations should sound familiar. If you follow our blog and read our articles about pharmaceutical regulations in other countries — DSCSA in the United States, Chestny ZNAK in Russia, ANVISA in Brazil, ASL BELGISI in Uzbekistan, and so on — everything about UAE pharmaceutical products traceability should ring a bell.

As we said right at the start today, the global push for pharmaceutical traceability and serialization continues at a furious pace. Requirements may vary from country to country, but their essence is the same (e.g., protecting consumers, serialization, traceability, electronic reporting, central repositories, GS1 standards). Tatmeen is just one more example in a very large regulatory ocean.

It’s easy to feel swept up in this current. And, truth be told, if you’re not complying now or preparing to comply by published deadlines, you’re putting your business in jeopardy. If you have questions about Tatmeen or complying with pharmaceutical serialization and traceability regulations in any country, contact us today. In just a few minutes, our supply chain specialists can demonstrate how our award-winning Traceability System ensures you’re compliant in any country, today, tomorrow — always.

For even more information, check out our Global Compliance Page, download our Worldwide Pharmaceutical Compliance Requirements white paper, and catch up on other pharma news in our blog:

rfxcel DSCSA Compliance Library: Our DSCSA Resources in One Place

Welcome to the rfxcel DSCSA Compliance Library. It’s a collection of our DSCSA resources (as of January 2022). As we move toward the November 2023 deadline, we thought it would be a good idea to make this information available in one convenient location.

We will, of course, continue writing about the DSCSA and providing the best supply chain solutions to ensure manufacturers, wholesalers, dispensers, repackagers, third-party logistics providers — all pharmaceutical stakeholders — meet the requirements and remain compliant forever.

So bookmark this page and our blog. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss anything about the DSCSA and other important developments in the pharma industry. Just fill out the short form at the bottom of any page on our website.

And of course, contact us today with your questions about the DSCSA or anything else about the pharma supply chain. Our experts are here to help.

A note about the rfxcel DSCSA Compliance Library

Please note that that we haven’t included everything we’ve written or presented about the DSCSA. Deadlines and requirements have changed since the law was enacted in November 2013, so some of our earlier pieces are, logically, outdated. Rest assured that the contents of the rfxcel DSCSA Compliance Library are up to date.

If you want to see how we’ve followed the evolution of the DSCSA in our blog or track down other news we shared over the years, look around our “Resources” page. You’ll probably find some other things that interest you too.

­­Our top DSCSA webinars
The DSCSA in our blog
DSCSA compliance white papers + global compliance resources
Our top DSCSA news items
The DSCSA timeline

DSCSA 2023 Serialization Timeline

Uzbekistan Traceability Update: Pharma Serialization Begins Feb. 1, 2022

Note: On February 7, 2022 — just 10 days after we posted this article — Uzbekistan’s State Tax Committee announced that it was “extending the timeframe for the phased introduction of mandatory digital markings” for pharmaceutical products. The February 1 deadline is longer in effect for this product category. Read the details here.

 

On February 1, 2022, Uzbekistan traceability requirements for medicines and medical devices will go into effect. It’s the latest compliance deadline in the country’s push for serialization and digital marking regulations that will affect an array of industries. Here’s a breakdown of the law and the latest Uzbekistan traceability updates.

The Uzbekistan Traceability System: ASL BELGISI

The Uzbekistan traceability system is called ASL BELGISI. It’s managed by CRPT Turon, the equivalent of Russia’s Center for Research in Perspective Technologies (CRPT), which manages Russia’s National Track and Trace Digital System (Chestny ZNAK).

On November 20, 2020, the Uzbekistan government published Decree PKM-737, “Establishment of Obligatory Digital Labeling.” It mandates serialization for tobacco products; alcohol, including wine and wine products; beer and brewing products; appliances; medicines and medical devices; and water and soft drinks.

Furthermore, it requires supply chain participants to register with a national catalog of labeled goods; when an application is approved, the participant receives an account and is granted access to the system.

According to the CRPT Turon website, the “main task” of ASL BELGISI “is to guarantee consumers the authenticity and declared quality of the purchased products.” Like Chestny ZNAK, consumers can download a mobile app to scan products, report suspect products, and provide feedback about the system.

Marking requirements

Uzbekistan traceability requirements mirror those mandated in Chestny ZNAK. All domestically produced and imported goods must be marked with DataMatrix codes that are traced across the supply chain through a four-step process:

    1. CPRT Turon assigns a unique DataMatrix code to each product and the manufacturer or importer places it on the packaging.
    2. The product’s movements are traced throughout the supply chain, from the factory or point of importation to the consumer, via scanning of the DataMatrix code.
    3. Retailers scan the codes when products are stocked and sold.
    4. Consumers can use the ASL BELGISI app to check a product’s legitimacy (i.e., confirm that it’s not a counterfeit) and access product information.

To get DataMatrix codes, participants must be registered with ASL BELGISI, describe the goods in a national catalog of labeled goods, then formally order the codes and apply them to the products. The codes must be applied to packaging or a product label according to the ISO/IEC 16022-2008 “Automatic identification and data capture techniques – Data Matrix bar code symbology” specification. At present, each DataMatrix code costs 68 som (excluding VAT), which is quite literally a fraction of a U.S. dollar: $0.0063.

Like its Russian counterpart, ASL BELGISI uses “verification keys” and “verification codes.” These are also commonly known as crypto codes. CRPT Turon generates these codes.

Generally, the DataMatrix codes for products in every regulated industry must include four data points:

    • A 14-digit product code (i.e., Global Trade Item Number, or GTIN)
    • A 13-character randomized serial number generated by CRPT Turon or a supply chain participant
    • A four-character verification key generated by CRPT Turon
    • A 44-character verification code generated by CRPT Turon

For aggregation, a Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC) number must be provided in a one-dimensional barcode following the ISO 15394:2009 “Packaging – Barcode and two-dimensional symbols for shipping, transport and receiving labels” specification.

Regulated industries and key dates/requirements

Uzbekistan traceability regulations currently apply to five product categories: tobacco; alcohol, including wine and wine products; beer and brewing products; appliances; medicines and medical devices; and water and soft drinks. Below, we list the latest information about each category.

Filter cigarettes
    • January 1, 2021: only labeled products may be produced and imported
    • July 1, 2021: manufacturers may ship only labeled products to wholesalers
    • October 1, 2021: distributors may ship only labeled products to retailers
    • January 1, 2022: sale of unmarked cigarettes is prohibited
    • October 1, 2022: mandatory labeling for all types of tobacco products
Alcohol
    • January 1, 2021: only labeled products, including wine and wine products, may be produced and imported
    • December 1, 2021: alcoholic beverages packaged in metal containers, including aluminum containers, must be labeled
    • December 1, 2021: aggregation required for alcoholic beverages, including wine and wine products
    • November 1, 2022: aggregation required for alcoholic beverages packaged in metal containers, including aluminum containers
Beer and brewing products

Mandatory labeling began on April 1, 2021.

Appliances

A pilot for appliances began on July 1, 2021. Mandatory labeling is being introduced in phases. Vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, TVs, and monitors were required to be labeled beginning December 1, 2021.

Medicines and medical devices
    • June 1, 2021: 6-month pilot for medicines and medical devices begins
    • January 28, 2022: CRPT Turon announces that the pilot is officially closed
    • February 1, 2022: only labeled products may be produced and imported

CRPT Turon reported that, during the pilot, all participants successfully registered with ASL BELGISI and registered agreed-upon product in the national catalog of labeled goods. They also successfully installed marking equipment on production lines, trained employees to use the equipment, and released batches of properly labeled, serialized products.

More about the requirements for medicines and medical devices

In addition to a DataMatrix code that includes a 14-digit product code (i.e., GTIN), a 13-character randomized serial number, a 4-character verification key, and a 44-character verification code, packaging must have a human-readable GTIN, lot number, expiration date, manufacturing date, and serial number.

Digital marking must be applied directly to packaging on the production line in a “specially designated place” and not be larger than 10×10 millimeters. The codes must be affixed in a way that prevents them from being separated from packaging during the entire shelf life of the product. Codes may not be printed on external packaging material, including transparent film/wraps, and my not be obscured by other information.

Water and soft drinks

This product category includes bottled water, soft drinks, and fruit and vegetable juices.

    • June 1, 2021: pilot for water and soft drinks begins
    • March 1, 2022: only labeled products may be produced and imported

Final thoughts

In June 2021, CRPT Turon announced that it had issued more than 350 million codes, including more than 200 million for tobacco products, almost 130 million for alcohol products, and approximately 20 million for beer products.

As of today (January 28, 2022), it reports that it has issued nearly 583 million codes for tobacco products, more than 300 million for alcohol products, almost 143 million for beer products.

These figures illustrate a simple fact: Strict serialization and traceability regulations are here to stay in Uzbekistan. Russia has led the way with Chestny ZNAK, which arguably has the world’s toughest supply chain requirements, and we should watch the regulatory landscape in the other Newly Independent States (NIS) — Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine.

As we said above, ASL BELGISI, the Uzbekistan traceability system, mirrors Russia’s Chestny ZNAK. rfxcel is an undisputed leader in Chestny ZNAK compliance. Consider these facts:

  • We’re an official CRPT partner for medications, bottled drinking water, tobacco, footwear, tires, light industry, perfumes, dairy, bicycles, and wheelchairs.
  • We’ve demonstrated to the CRPT that our solutions for traceability and compliance meet its stringent requirements.
  • We’re accredited as an IT company by Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, Communications, and Mass Media.
  • We’re one of the few providers with active implementations in Russia (e.g., major global consumer goods and pharmaceutical companies).
  • We have an ever-growing Moscow-based team that knows the regulations and brings expertise in key areas of supply chain management and technology.
  • We’ve led the way in thought leadership with white papers and industry updates and information. (See the list below for a sample.)

We’ve also developed end-to-end traceability and compliance hubs for governments that want to lock down their supply chains with the best digital technologies and solutions. Read more about those here and here.

Contact us today to learn more about our traceability and compliance solutions. Our digital supply chain experts will share a short demo of our award-winning Traceability System and show you how to remain compliant and agile no matter where you do business.

A sample of our Chestny ZNAK coverage