News Feature | April 14, 2014

Lilly Invests Millions On New Anti-Counterfeiting Serialization Program

By Estel Grace Masangkay

Over the next two years, Eli Lilly will be strengthening its efforts against counterfeiting with a $110 million investment in a new serialization program for its drug packages.

The new program will oversee the stamping of unique codes and serial numbers on every drug package the company ships around the world. This will allow for tracking and verification of every shipment as it travels from manufacturing plant to the patient. It is hoped that this latest anti-counterfeiting measure will remove counterfeits from legitimate drug distribution channels, as counterfeiters won’t know the right serial number to stamp on their fake products.

The new serialization program is the company’s most expensive and complex yet. Recent attacks from counterfeiters have alerted the industry as operators seem to be gradually shifting from faking lifestyle drugs, such as Lilly’s erectile dysfunction drug Cialis, to drugs for cancer and heart failure. This switch presents new opportunities for harming both patients’ welfare and pharmaceutical companies’ reputations and brands.

USA Today cited the recent attack on Lilly by a Chinese national who shipped fake drugs under the brand name Zyprexa. The counterfeiter reportedly faked Lilly’s schizophrenia drug and sold illegal knockoffs filled with impurities. The counterfeit drugs contained only 55 to 80 percent of the active ingredient of the real products. Michael Russo, Lilly's director of global security for product and asset protection, said, “His packaging was very good. You had a guy with a lot of panache, operating on an international scale.” Thanks to Lilly’s anti-counterfeiting team’s efforts, authorities were able to track down the counterfeiter and arrest him.

William Reid, senior director of Lilly's global anti-counterfeiting operations, said, “We know the counterfeiters are out there... and we'll be as vigilant as they are. I'm optimistic... we will get to a place where we will beat back the counterfeiters."

The program is expected to roll out in the next two years as Lilly works to install high-speed, computer controlled stamping equipment in 40 packaging lines around the world. Lilly is currently at work designing and testing the custom machinery on a $5 million mock packaging line located in an Indianapolis warehouse.