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SmartTrack’s fight against counterfeit drugs

EVOTEQ’s SmaƱTrack digital solution is revolutionary in terms of building trust and reliability in the supply chain. The platorm uses serialization and advanced cloud platorms to ‘track and trace’ the complete journey of products by providing an end-to-end monitoring and analysis. SmartTrack increases visibility and trust across various industries, especially healthcare, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, raw materials, etc.

Track and trace Ttechnology is known to be the next logical step in a consumer-led supply chain with its industry- wide implementation. Logistics companies want to know where their fleet is at any given time, and consumers want to be able to follow the journey their goods take. Today, that technology covers RFID, GPS and EPOS, all of which aim to increase the efficiency of the supply chain throughout the life cycle.

Track and trace technologies enable a product’s status to be captured through the value chain, and to retrospectively identify and verify its path.

Solutions typically include elements for: (1) associating products or materials with unique identiö ers (UIDs); (2) capturing events at various points in the supply chain; and (3) performing analytics and reporting on the information.

Some solutions include messaging to share information with regulatory agencies or trading partners, and some also support capabilities for product authentication. The implementation of track and trace solutions and technologies is an important strategy adopted by many manufacturing companies and regulatory bodies in recent years. The global track and trace solutions market is projected to reach $7.3 billion by 2026 from $4.1 billion in 2021, at a CAGR of 12.1% during the forecast period (markets and markets). Growth in the market is largely driven by stringent regulations & standards for the implementation of serialization, increasing focus of manufacturers on brand protection, growth in the number of packaging-related product recalls, high growth in the generic and OTC markets, and growth in the medical device industry. On the other hand, the high costs and long implementation timeframe associated with serialization and aggregation and the huge setup costs are expected to limit market growth to a certain extent.

Smart Track Platform

EVOTEQ built the Smart Track platform, an advanced serialization and tracing system that has linked and developed new generation technology to track and trace serialized products from the point of production to the consumer. The
platform is a GS1 compliant solution to ensure global supply chain integrity and can be readily deployed across many verticals. The platform is capable of integrating use cases across industry verticals including the automotive industry, for validating genuine spare parts; halal food verification; taxation of FMCG products, such as soft drinks and tobacco products; identifying luxury goods imitations, and counterfeit drugs detection to name just a few. As a result, every critical point throughout the supply chain is documented and the final item can be traced to its origins – ensuring transparency and eliminating counterfeit products. To get an idea of the platform’s scalability in counterfeit detection, we spoke in depth with the CEO of EVOTEQ, Jihad Tayara.

How can it be used in the healthcare sector?

As our SmartTrack solution aims to ensure product integrity by tracking serialized tangible products, it is certainly fit for the healthcare industry. The solution can track any medical item from the point of production through hospitals and pharmacies all the way to the patients. The process seeks to increase transparency and trust in the healthcare industry. SmartTrack will aim to reduce factors which lead to medicine shortages and fraud, expedite recalls and prevent the sale of expired medicines.

The front-end mobile solution for consumers and a separate portal for manufacturers and distributors will offer end-to- end traceability of medical supplies for all supply chain participants. The tracking system is based on the GS1 global serialization standards, which will facilitate the day-to-day operations for pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturers and all supply chain stakeholders who supply to the UAE healthcare system. SmartTrack is built with the latest state-of-the-art technology and includes SAP software and Microsoft Azure.

How can SmartTrack overcome the challenge of serializing healthcare?

Counterfeit and sub-standard drugs in the pharmaceutical sector pose a global public health risk. These drugs are not only ineffective but may also put the lives of patients in danger, causing adverse reactions or even death. Counterfeiting, adulteration, theft and even diversion of drugs have led governments and regulatory agencies to develop regulations to ensure patient safety and supply chain security.

SmartTrack ensures that pharmaceutical supply chains are as secure as possible by providing information about the origin and locations of certain products. Transparency is necessary when it comes to tackling the menace of counterfeit goods, which now stands at 3.3 per cent of the global trade, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in 10 medicinal products sold globally is counterfeit and is a cause of more than a million deaths each year.

To combat this crisis, especially during the pandemic, serializing the medical products will help reduce counterfeiting, diversion, and theft by making supply chain operations more transparent. Therefore, assigning a unique 2D Matrix barcode to products and tracking them throughout the supply chain becomes important. However, the process comes with its own challenges as the execution goes far beyond printing barcodes on a package.

One of the main hurdles is the ability to couple physical movement of products with the transfer of electronic data. The process requires a robust IT infrastructure which can generate, store, capture, and transmit the serialized data to trading partners within the pharmaceutical supply chain through secure channels.

Tell us in detail about your ‘track and trace’ technology SmartTrack? EVOTEQ’s SmartTrack digital solution is revolutionary in terms of building trust and reliability in the supply chain. The platform uses serialization and advanced cloud platforms to ‘track and trace’ the complete journey of products by providing an end-to-end monitoring and analysis.

SmartTrack increases visibility and trust across various industries, especially healthcare, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, raw materials, etc.

EVOTEQ is currently working with the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) to utilize this technology and ensure healthcare supply chains are secure and tracked in the country. SmartTrack acts as a crucial method to ensure product safety by providing authenticity validation and enabling counterfeit prevention. Apart from uniting all stakeholders against fraud or shortages, SmartTrack also aims to empower consumers to enable them to validate and verify products across the global supply chain.

To that end, EVOTEQ’s SmartTrack platform, which was developed in compliance with not-for-profit organization GS1, tracks and traces pharmaceutical products by serializing each product. SmartTrack assigns a unique identification code, which is a serial number or an electronic product code (EPC) to all the products once manufactured. The serial number should be applied to each unit in GS1 standard in the form of a 2D DataMatrix barcode format and human-readable formats. The units can be tracked through its entire supply chain, from
production through the supply chain partners to final dispensation to the patient.

How is SmartTrack known to be an advanced platform to ensure global supply chain integrity?

Apart from beneö ting manufacturers and supply chain providers, traceability in healthcare will ensure that correct and authentic products reach patients when they need it. With SmartTrack, products can be traced by attaching a unique identification of the items which offers the opportunity to leverage visibility for every stakeholder about the movement and delivery of the inventory.

How does SmartTrack track and trace serialized products from the point of production to the consumer?

When a manufacturer makes a product, they will affix a GS1 2D Matrix barcode to it and digitally upload that information into SmartTrack. From there onwards, the code is the mark of authenticity and shipping conditions for those products. This will make it easy for logistics providers to ensure the timely supply of products to the right customers. All they need to do is scan the barcode to get the information.

By checking the barcode, authorities can verify and check the details on the number of drugs being imported, drug type, manufacturing details, expiry dates, approvals for release of shipment in the UAE, and data repository updates.

Once the product receives its serial shipping container code, it is then shipped by International providers to the UAE or applied by the local producer for the local market. When international supplies enter the UAE, customs officials can get detailed information about the products including the origin, validity, shipping conditions as well as the expiration date and its destination. The same process follows when inventory reaches warehouses and subsequently to hospitals and clinics through distributors.

Most importantly, SmartTrack puts the power of verification into the hands of every customer. The platform also offers a Mobile App which allows patients to confirm the authenticity of the medicine they buy. If a product is flagged as unsafe, patients can return the flawed product to any pharmacy or government center.

Describe its counterfeit detection process? Smart Track has the ability to understand where a product should be in the supply chain. If a product has a barcode, which is not recorded in the system, it will notify the relevant authority that it is not authorized. Equally if a barcode is copied and appears in the supply chain again, the system knows where the barcode (product) should be in the supply chain and notifies the authority that it is an unauthorized product. SmartTrack has advanced analytics that enables the system to detect illicit product for many reasons, including expired and unauthorized products.

In an effort to support track and trace for pharma, how is serialization used to help identify a drug’s authenticity prior to sale, dispensing, return or recall? SmartTrack acts with öles of data with 2D matrix barcode, which has unique information for that box supplied by the Ministry of Health’s authorized manufacturers and is used to identify each box of medicines through its journey to the patient. Applying a global location number to all supply chain participants, we can track the progress of that medicines to individual location, including the manufacturing site, the logistics provider, distributor, and a hospital, clinic or pharmacy that receives the medicine. Additionally, if we need to recall the medicine, we can do so quickly, as we know the location of each box. Every outlet dispensing or storing drugs are digitally connected to the system, enabling it to be notified in seconds in case of a recall.

What happens if track and trace is not implemented?

With rapid innovation in product manufacturing comes the need to identify the engineering, design, production, and distribution of resources. It is only possible with an end-to-end visibility process across production and supply, including real- time production monitoring systems, advanced planning and scheduling manufacturing tools as well as the track-and-trace method along the supply chain.

SmartTrack connects the company with its suppliers, customers, and partners to enable a real-time flow of information and transactions to create flexibility and robustness in logistics. It is beneficial in a way that it improves life expectancy in terms of quality medicinal drugs and minimizing monetary loss due to counterfeits. Some of the benefits are:

Ÿ Improving efficiency and minimizing waste Ÿ Enhancing collaboration in the supply chain to resolve inter-enterprise problems better and faster

Ÿ Boosting resilience and agility to help predict shortages and secure the supply when facing a crisis

In the absence of such a platform, it would be very difficult to regulate medical supplies being transported around the world in such high volumes due to increased demand for healthcare with rising population.

Describe SmartTrack’s verification process?

SmartTrack uses the GS1-approved 2D matrix barcode and the global location number of all supply chain partners. It verifies every movement by using the matrix of these codes to verify where the product should be and that it moves as it should through the supply chain. Any anomalies in either the codes, the location or the movement of the product from one place to another are notified as a non-compliant event to the system immediately.

How does it increase visibility and trust across different industries including healthcare and pharma?

Real-time visibility enables companies to improve efficiency and gain higher customer satisfaction. With access to real-time environmental data combined with insights into transit times and predictive estimated times of delivery, companies can now create a more accurate, timely, and complete picture of the supply chain than ever before.

Describe its end-to-end monitoring and analysis?

SmartTrack uses advanced algorithms, analytics, and machine learning to follow the unique identiöers on a product. It follows the product through the supply chain, from its starting point to its end point, ensuring that it is where it should be.

SmartTrack continually learns to help clients predict demand, the behavior of products in their portfolios, and the efficiency of their supply chain for better planning, reduced cost, and increased sales.

In this Covid-19 era, why is it even more important to opt for SmartTrack?

The ripples of the coronavirus pandemic were felt across all sectors globally, but the healthcare system was forced to immediately adapt to the sudden changes. The COVID-19 pandemic has put pressure on the pharmaceutical supply
chains to ensure a steady inflow of medicines, which can be challenging to manage. But on the positive side the pandemic has demonstrated the speed with which companies can adapt.

When a country unexpectedly needs to import huge quantities of hand sanitizers, medicines, and masks from as many sources as possible, it is imperative to ensure the products are genuine given the investments made and the
number of lives that are at stake. This is where the SmartTrack platform becomes invaluable.

Such a platform can trace the flow of goods from the point of manufacture to point of sale and the end-users. This streamlines the supply chain process and enhances operational efficiency.

As the pandemic raced around the world, healthcare facilities were left facing rising case and supply shortages. As the data was migrated online, it was imperative to trace it in order to make real-time decisions. The pandemic accelerated the digitization process to adopt the traceability methods for supply chain risk monitoring and management to achieve operational resilience.

How has these current times highlighted the need for a seamless functioning healthcare system, addressing the needs of hospitals, pharmacies and consumers to ultimately enhance the quality of life?

We have seen the need for seamless supply chains to enable exceptional patient care. SmartTrack can work with Hospital Information Systems to forecast demand and react quickly to the needs of the hospitals or clinics and the patients. By allowing supply chain visibility, it also enables governments and hospital systems to move drugs and equipment to where they are needed.

SmartTrack is proud to work with some of the major players in the pharmaceutical industry in providing transparency until the last mile delivery. Digital technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain improve security and visibility across the supply chain. Such methods create a dynamic, interoperable system where transactions can be transparent and traceable.

Disruptions within speciöc parts of the supply chain can have subsequent impact on the steps that follow, creating a cascade of inefficiencies that is very complicated to trace. However, end-to-end traceability across the interconnected supply chain allows data to be safely extracted in real-time using artificial intelligence tools, which generates actionable insights and, consequently, improving decision-making across the process. This further helps companies to mitigate disruptions and become more agile, efficient, and responsive.