The counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals continues to be a major worldwide problem, with serious public health and economic consequences. In theory, anti-counterfeiting tags could help to solve this problem. Unfortunately, there are currently no practical, effective tags that significantly resist counterfeiting. This paper discusses a different, relatively low-tech and low-cost approach called the “Call-in the Numeric Token” (CNT) technique. It relies on participation by pharmaceutical customers (possibly including consumers). They check, via phone or Internet, on the validity of the unique, random, unpredictable identity (ID) number assigned to each pharmaceutical container they possess. The numerical container ID is a virtual tag or token, rather than a physical one that is susceptible to counterfeiting.
Counterfeiters are hampered by being unable to guess valid IDs, by being unable to easily acquire large numbers of existing valid IDs, and by being detected when multiple customers report the same IDs. At least some counterfeits can be detected even if only a small percentage of customers participate. The technique is particularly well suited for single-dose (“unit of use”) packaging, but can otherwise be adapted and automated for resellers, wholesalers, re-packagers, and other high-volume customers. While it will not absolutely end counterfeiting, CNT can make pharmaceutical counterfeiting easier to detect and study, and more difficult for counterfeiters. The technique is also applicable to other kinds of products.