Veterinary drugs. Fakes and illicit markets

05 Nov, 2020

When talking about troubles with veterinary drugs, the first thing that comes to our mind is the extensive use of antibiotics in modern farms. It is true that today antibiotics are the only way to overcome a bacterial disease efficiently. However, their misuse to increase animal growth-rate and productivity can stimulate the development of an antimicrobial resistance. This means triggering bacteria to grow a sort of tolerance to antibiotic treatments. However, this is not the only problem affecting vet drugs. An increasing number of daily used medicines are unauthorized, expired or even fake.

Animal medicines developed for the treatment or prevention of a disease must be authorized by national authorities before they can be legally sold in a given country. Often, these medicines are illegally imported and sold in black markets. This practice is so widespread that the UK Government set up a website allowing users to report illegal trades and cases of prescription misuse. There is even a constantly updated page informing the citizens on seizures and prosecutions. (1)

In a report published by the global association “Health for Animals”, it is estimated that illegal veterinary medicine causes a global annual loss of 2 billion USD. (2) In this situation, animal health companies risk to see their business reputation compromised, especially due to the safety issues that fake vet drugs could cause. In addition, the spreading of these products in the market could result in a loss of confidence in authentic medicines by veterinarians, consumers and animal owners.

The success of this illicit activity can be mainly attributed to the fast growth of online drug stores and, in parallel, through the development of international trade. The major countries of origin for illegal veterinary medicines are China and India. Here, the sales occur via unauthorized pharmacies, social media and street vendors. However, fake animal drugs have also been found entering official distribution channels in different areas of the world, including the most developed markets of US and EU, where high attention must be placed on illegal medicines for pets sold online.

To prevent that the use of untested drugs could damage public health, animal welfare and the environment, some actions need to be taken. Beside strengthening enforcement agencies, also the companies should start taking action; and adopting an innovative anticounterfeiting technology could be a way of doing it. The solution provided by Authena matches exactly the needs of vet drugs producers. Combining a physical seal with an advanced digital technology based on IoT and Blockchain in fact, Authena is the only solution on the market that integrates traceability, grey market prevention and a fraudulent re-filling protection. To prevent content substitution, companies partnering with Authena can apply to their medicines a patented NFC tag, able to capture data on product location and opening time. Finally, with the help of an app, end users can read the tags to ensure that their products have not been tampered and access details regarding the supply chain, the instruction for use and the expiry date.

Alessandro Tacconelli