Aegate authentication assists Belgium's flu vaccine campaign

Aegate validationAegate's point-of-dispensing authentication system for medicines was used to improve influenza vaccination rates among high-risk groups during last year's flu season, showing its potential beyond the identification of counterfeit, expired and recalled medicines.

The system was used successfully to support a programme in Belgium to boost flu vaccination rates among high-risk groups, such as diabetics, which have a greater susceptibility to the virus and are more likely to develop complications such as pneumonia.

Belgium was the first country to implement Aegate's system, which makes use of a serialised code to identify each individual medicine package. Pharmacists scan packs as they are dispensed, and the system can identify duplicate serial numbers - which could indicate a counterfeit product - as well as expired, short expiry and recalled products.

Aegate's system also allows messages to be displayed as drugs are dispensed, and it is this functionality that was exploited in the Belgian flu vaccination drive, said Graham Smith, Aegate's senior vice president of business development, at IQPC's recent Pharmaceutical Anticounterfeiting conference in Amsterdam.

Over the 14-week campaign period (September to December 2009), the system was primed to display a message when a product used to treat diabetes was scanned, prompting the pharmacist to ask patients if they had been vaccinated and advise them to do so if not.

The message also included a link to a standard referral letter which could be printed out, completed by the pharmacist and then handed to the customer so they could book in for a flu shot easily.

More than 300,000 messages were sent during the campaign, said Smith, and more than 100,000 referral notes were printed out.

"This additional reinforcement of the role of the pharmacist makes sure that patients are getting a high level of care," he told the meeting.

Smith also provided an update on the performance of Aegate's system in 2009, noting that over the course of the year the system displayed 100,000 messages to pharmacists indicating that a pack that was about to be dispensed was subject to a recall.

In 2009 the system identified 3,242 instances were the medicine being dispensed was expired, and 12,500 cases of short expiry transactions, for example where a three-month supply is dispensed of a drug with only one-month of shelf-life  remaining.

Smith told that Aegate has not encountered any counterfeit products yet in the markets its authentication system is operational, but has uncovered products that should not be dispensed in the national market.

For example, in Belgium there have been cases in which dozens of packs carried the same serial number. These were not counterfeits, but identifying them avoided a headache for pharmacists - and the national reimbursement authority - which can only reimburse for a given serial number once.

This case, which occurred because of a manufacturing process error, led to another message being placed on the system advising pharmacists to retain the packs so they could return them to the manufacturer for replacement or refund.

As of January 2010, the system was handling 1 million scans a day and delivered more than 400,000 safety messages in that  month. It is also up and running in Greece and Italy, and is also being piloted in Germany using a 2D datamatrix code carrier.

Related articles:

Germany next market for authentication specialist Aegate? 

Belgian authentication system cost effective, says study

Aegate adds traceability to its portfolio

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