A review of existing and emerging digital technologies to combat the global trade in fake medicines

Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2017 May;16(5):587-602. doi: 10.1080/14740338.2017.1313227. Epub 2017 Apr 7.


The globalization of the pharmaceutical supply chain has introduced new challenges, chief among them, fighting the international criminal trade in fake medicines. As the manufacture, supply, and distribution of drugs becomes more complex, so does the need for innovative technology-based solutions to protect patients globally. Areas covered: We conducted a multidisciplinary review of the science/health, information technology, computer science, and general academic literature with the aim of identifying cutting-edge existing and emerging 'digital' solutions to combat fake medicines. Our review identified five distinct categories of technology including mobile, radio frequency identification, advanced computational methods, online verification, and blockchain technology. Expert opinion: Digital fake medicine solutions are unifying platforms that integrate different types of anti-counterfeiting technologies as complementary solutions, improve information sharing and data collection, and are designed to overcome existing barriers of adoption and implementation. Investment in this next generation technology is essential to ensure the future security and integrity of the global drug supply chain.

Keywords: Fake medicines; anti-counterfeit; counterfeit medicines; falsified medicines; health technology; online pharmacies; substandard medicines; supply chain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Counterfeit Drugs / supply & distribution*
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Medical Informatics / methods*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / standards
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / supply & distribution
  • Radio Frequency Identification Device


  • Counterfeit Drugs
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations