A unique new not-for-profit organisation – the Irish Medicines Verification Organisation (IMVO) – has been established by the key players in the medicines supply chain in Ireland – pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers, parallel distributors, and community pharmacists – as part of an EU-wide series of measures to tackle the growing problem of fake or ‘falsified’ medicines. To set the problem in context, over 650,000 dosage units of falsified and other illegal medicines bought over the Internet were detained coming into Ireland in 2016, according to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA). To date, there have been no reports of falsified medicines being distributed through legitimate channels in Ireland, eight such cases were detected in the UK between 2011 and 2015 so the risk cannot be ignored.
To tackle this threat, new EU legislation will require all prescription medicine packs to carry a special barcode containing a serial number and other details which will be used to check that the pack is legitimate. Before supplying the medicine to a patient, the pharmacist will scan the barcode to check the data against a central database managed by IMVO. If the pack details are not found in the database, an alert will be generated and an investigation will take place to find out if the pack is fake. These new requirements come into effect from February 2019 and pharmacists and pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesalers, individually and through IMVO, are already working to ensure that all the necessary systems are in place by then.
Speaking at the launch of IMVO, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, TD, said “The stakeholders involved in IMVO are to be congratulated for coming together to oversee this important initiative which will help to protect Irish patients from the threat of falsified medicines. I am delighted to see that as a result of their efforts, Ireland is amongst the leading countries in Europe in terms of progress made to date on this project.”
IMVO’s chairperson, Professor Pat O’Mahony, commented: “Implementing these requirements by the 2019 deadline is a significant challenge for pharmaceutical manufacturers, parallel distributors, wholesalers and pharmacists but the organisations who represent them in IMVO are committed to building on progress to date and working towards meeting this deadline.”