WuXi advances edible bar codes, a novel approach to counter-counterfeiting

Chinese CRO WuXi PharmaTech ($WX), alongside partner TruTag Technologies, is developing tiny, edible bar codes designed to prevent drug counterfeiting, and the technology cleared its first hurdle.

The two companies said they've completed testing of the bar codes' dose-authentication application with positive results, moving toward rolling out the service to drugmakers.

The codes are written on dust-sized particles and function as microsecurity devices, according to the companies. Each TruTag, inert and digestible, can be encoded with detailed information and integrated into a pill without the need for external packaging, and a scan of the resultant product can confirm authenticity and convey information about site and date of manufacture, the company said.

WuXi, which partnered up with TruTag and invested in the company last year, is helping test the technology on more and more APIs, and the two said they're working with multinational drug manufacturers on pilot programs to expand its use.

"We have demonstrated the ability of our technology to integrate an edible and safe identification code directly into an oral solid drug, thereby indelibly marking the product with an internal code for its lifetime," TruTag President Kent Mansfield said in a statement. "In the near term, this will allow drug manufacturers and distributors to have the ultimate audit of a drug's provenance and origin without reliance on packaging or laboratory chemical analysis."

For WuXi, one of the world's largest contract manufacturers, the technology presents a chance to both protect its customers' intellectual property and combat the global scourge of counterfeit drugs, CEO Ge Li said. Dangerous knock-off meds are estimated to cause more than 100,000 deaths each year, and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy figures the counterfeit industry generated roughly $75 billion in 2010.

- read the statement

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