HIMSS24 preview: combating counterfeit drugs in a health system

HIMSS24 preview: combating counterfeit drugs in a health system

It has become increasingly necessary for healthcare executives to monitor the pharmaceutical supply chain, primarily as overdose deaths related to counterfeit pill use more than doubled from July-Sept. 2019 to Oct.-Dec. 2021, according to the CDC.  

The FDA sought to address the issue by enacting the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), which went into effect in November. Still, healthcare executives autonomously need a cohesive strategy to monitor the pharmaceutical supply chain. 

Gee Mathen, director of pharmacy clinical applications and technical services at Texas Children’s Hospital, will address the issue in a session at HIMSS Global Conference & Exhibition in Orlando next week entitled “Combating Counterfeit Drugs and the Drug Supply Chain Security Act.” 

Mathen shared some highlights of his upcoming session with MobiHealthNews, and what he hopes attendees will learn from the discussion. 

MobiHealthNews: Can you provide some highlights of your HIMSS24 session?

Gee Mathen: My session will cover the topic of how DSCSA will impact the reduction of counterfeit drugs in the healthcare sector. The session will focus on the regulation and the importance of it. The global market has now seen a complete shift into how bad actors can impact patient care, and the presentation will highlight how the entire process is impacted from production to the patient.

MHN: Are counterfeit drugs a big problem in the healthcare sector?

Mathen: Counterfeit drugs are a serious issue in U.S. healthcare, posing a threat to public health. While the exact percentage is unknown, estimates suggest a significant portion of the U.S. drug market is infiltrated by counterfeits. 

These fake medications often lack essential ingredients, rendering them ineffective in treating illnesses. In some cases, counterfeit drugs contain incorrect dosages or harmful substances, leading to serious health complications. 

Beyond individual harm, counterfeit drugs also cause economic damage by undermining legitimate pharmaceutical businesses. The complex and global nature of counterfeit operations makes it a challenging problem to address. Despite efforts to strengthen the U.S. drug supply chain, more steps need to be taken to protect our patients.

MHN: How is DSCSA vital to ensuring patient safety?

Mathen: The Drug Supply Chain Security Act plays a crucial role in safeguarding patient safety by establishing a track-and-trace system for prescription drugs throughout the entire supply chain. 

This system allows for the verification of the authenticity and origin of each medication, helping to identify and prevent the distribution of counterfeit drugs. By implementing stricter security measures within the supply chain, DSCSA reduces the risk of patients receiving ineffective or harmful counterfeit medications. 

Additionally, DSCSA enhances traceability in case of drug recalls, enabling authorities to quickly and effectively remove compromised medications from the market. This improved traceability also facilitates investigations into counterfeit drug operations, potentially leading to the disruption of these illegal activities. 

Ultimately, the act empowers patients to have greater confidence in the integrity and safety of the prescription drugs they receive.

While the implementation of the DSCSA is ongoing, it represents a significant step forward in protecting patients from the dangers of counterfeit drugs and promoting a safer healthcare environment.

MHN: What do you hope attendees learn from your session?

Mathen: I hope the session will give a highlight of what we learned in our process of tracking drug supply from production to the patient. There will be insights on how technology will play an important role in preventing counterfeit medications in the system today.

The 2024 HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition takes place on March 11-15, 2024, in Orlando, Florida. Learn more and register

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