Edible Pill Bar Code to Crack Down on Counterfeits

Is your medication a fake?

The World Health Organization estimates up to 15 percent of the world’s drug supply is counterfeit.

TruTag Technologies in Oakland hopes the new edible bar code system it has developed will soon change that.

Pills are sprayed with a special dust made of silica, an ingredient already found in some sweeteners and considered generally safe by the FDA.

The coating contains a specific color combination.

The bar code is invisible, but when the pill is scanned it reveals the drug name, lot number , even the expiration date.

“This is another line of defense to create greater comfort and security that what you are buying and taking is really legitimate and designed to work the way your doctor intended it to be,” said TruTag COO Peter Wong.

The bar code can also help during a drug recall, because it can tell a pharmaceutical company the exact plant where the problem pills were processed.

“Being able to test the pill itself instead of the package can really help a manufacturer determine where a problem is in the case of a product recall,” said Wong.

Ram Bala, a business professor at Santa Clara University who worked in the pharmaceutical industry says the technology may help crack down on counterfeit generic drugs, which are often manufactured in other countries.

“For the FDA, it is an additional monitoring mechanism to make sure good quality generics are entering the United States,” said Bala.

The cost of the edible bar code is a fraction of a cent per pill so Wong doesn’t anticipate it will impact the price of drugs.

The bar code and scanner are in the early phases of testing but this extra layer of protection could be available to the public in about two years.

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