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Zuellig Pharma launches blockchain-based eZTracker to help consumers verify authorized drugs in seconds

Zuellig Pharma announced findings from the first-ever survey looking at Hong Kong consumer attitudes and understanding of counterfeit medicines. Key findings from the survey include:

· 88% of respondents are unclear or unaware of what counterfeit medicines are;
· 52% incorrectly believe counterfeit medicines are the same as generic medicines;
· 91% of respondents place importance on verifying their medicine, but more than half are not confident in how to do so (58%).

Counterfeit medicine has been a growing challenge across the world. In 2018, the global incidence of counterfeit seizures increased by 63% from the previous year. Last year, Hong Kong customs announced its largest counterfeit medicine bust in a decade. Despite the prevalence of counterfeit medicine, the survey revealed that while a vast majority of Hong Kong people want to be able to verify their medicine, they are unlikely and unconfident to do so.

Hong Kong people are cautious over purchasing healthcare products

Hong Kong people are generally cautious when it comes to purchasing medication. On average they check three to four sources, including seeking advice from healthcare professionals (61%), as well as their family and friends (41%). The top three considerations for purchasing medicines are whether the medicine is a prescription from healthcare professionals, has good reviews and comes from a well-known brand name.

Lack of understanding of counterfeit medicines can potentially compromise treatment

Although 91% of Hong Kong people place great importance on verifying medicines, the research found more than half are unlikely to verify the authenticity (57%) and are not confident in verifying (58%).

Additionally, a majority (88%) of respondents lack an understanding of what counterfeit medicines are. Over half (52%) incorrectly believe counterfeit medicines are the same as generic medicines, showing low levels of understanding. Counterfeit medicines are branded or generic medication whereby the identity and/or source has been deliberately and fraudulently mislabelled.5 Counterfeit products may include products with wrong ingredients, insufficient or without active ingredients, or with fake packaging.

“The research shows an urgent need to raise the public’s understanding on counterfeit medicines and provide them with ways to protect themselves. Globally, counterfeit medicines are on the rise and kill one million people a year, or hinder treatment progress. It is everyone’s responsibility to take precautionary measures to fight against counterfeiters,” said Andi Umbricht, Chief Executive, Hong Kong and Macau, Zuellig Pharma.

Lack of understanding results in usage of unreliable verification methods

For those who were aware of the definition of counterfeit medicines (12%), discrepancies in packaging was their main method of verification. Top methods of verification included checking if the security seal is intact or has been tampered with, as well as looking out for unusual fonts, font sizes, print color and spelling errors. However, as counterfeiters grow increasingly sophisticated, these manual ways of detection may be unreliable.

Launch of eZTracker allows verification of medicines using blockchain technology

To equip consumers with a tool to help them identify unauthorized medicines more quickly and effectively, Zuellig Pharma has announced the launch of eZTracker. eZTracker is a mobile app that uses blockchain technology to determine if a medicine is authorized to be distributed in Hong Kong. Consumers simply scan the QR code on the packaging to instantaneously verify if a medicine comes from an authorized distributor.

“With our commitment to providing high quality innovative solutions and enhancing product quality for customers, we have developed eZTracker to help people confidently verify if a drug is imported by an authorized distributor with just a quick scan. This supports our focused mission of making quality healthcare more accessible to the Hong Kong community,” said Andi Umbricht.

Zuellig Pharma also announced its collaboration with global pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme (Asia). Consumers can now use eZTracker to verify MSD’s HPV vaccine. Zuellig Pharma will also continue to expand the service scope to more products in the future.

Caron Li, Managing Director of Merck Sharp & Dohme (Asia) in Hong Kong and Macau, said “At MSD, patient safety is always one of our top priorities. We are pleased that Zuellig Pharma has developed this solution to enhance product safety for patients, and look forward to seeing the new digital capabilities of eZTracker helping protect the safety and health of patients in Hong Kong, by empowering healthcare professionals and patients alike to confirm the official source of selected pharmaceutical products.”

eZTracker is available for free download on the App Store or Google Play. It helps people confidently verify if a drug is imported by an authorized distributor with just a quick scan. Click here to learn more and download the app:

Zuellig Pharma’s eZTracker app immediately verifies if a medicine has been imported by an
authorized distributor.

About the Survey:

The survey was conducted by Edelman Intelligence, a third-party research agency, in December 2019 to understand the Hong Kong public’s understanding of counterfeit drugs. The online research polled 1,000 Hong Kong people aged 18-70.

1. Zuellig Pharma. Survey on Hong Kong People’s Perception of Counterfeit Medicine. 2019 Dec.
2. Erwin A, et al. The Health and Economic Effects of Counterfeit Drugs. Am Health Drug Benefits. 2014 Jun; 7(4): 216–224.
3. Pharmaceutical Security Institute. Counterfeit Incident Trends.
4. South China Morning Post. Hong Kong customs seizes HK$13.8 million haul of fake medicine in biggest such bust in a decade. 2019 Dec.
5. FDA. Generic Drug Facts.
6. Counterfeit Drugs. Guidelines for the development of measures to combat counterfeit drugs . 1999.