According to a study by OECD, international trade in counterfeit medicines amounted to more than USD4.4 billion and only increases with the global pandemic. The impact of counterfeit medicine is beyond just losses incurred by pharmaceutical companies, but also public health concerns for governments, and at an individual level, lead to pain, suffering and personal loss.
Walid Eissa is the CEO of Global Centralized System, a company that was established in 2016 to develop a technology, based on a centralized system to combat fraud and counterfeiting. The company partners with Dr Hatim Zaghloul’s Inovatian Inc. to develop further the anti-counterfeiting technology based on QR code with blockchain, named VerumCode.
A personal tragedy led him to develop an anti-counterfeiting technology
I spoke with Walid Eissa, about how VerumCode came about and how it can help solve the fake medication problem.
“The idea started with me, when my father was taking a very expensive medication in Egypt, without any benefit. When we analyzed the medicine, we found it to be just components of calcium materials, with some colouring. The cost of this material is only a fraction of the cost of real medicine,” explained Walid Eissa.
The medicine his father took turned out to be counterfeit medicine.
“The fake medicine also had packaging with a hologram logo that is supposed to be on the original medicine packaging. The hologram looks exactly like the one on the original packaging.”
Unfortunately, Walid Eissa’s father passed away as a result of taking counterfeit medicine. This led to Walid taking on a personal mission to research and later on develop a technology that can prevent counterfeit products, especially counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
The Verum Code
After that painful loss, he then went on to research the various methods available to ensure the ant-tampering of medicines. However, he found out that most were based on physical, tangible nature, such as hologram stickers, and 2D bar codes.
Walid thought of a more comprehensive plan to tackle anti-counterfeiting via authentication and verification application, where his application is able to produce unique, non-repeatable random codes. He then worked together with Dr Hatim Zaghloul, via Inovatian Inc., to complete the system by connecting it with randomly changing encryption, making the decryption process nearly impossible.
Verum Code’s anti-counterfeiting technology works by issuing authentication, via unique, non-repeatable codes, which can then be printed into QR code format, which can then be sealed on the packaging of the medication. The codes are the secured via randomly changing encryption which are stored at a centralized system.
The verification process Consumers can then scan the QR code via a mobile app, where the centralized system will confirm the authenticity of the product. The code can only be scanned once, before the system generates a response that says the code has been scanned previously, as this prevents duplication of the code which would have led to counterfeit products.
Securing the authenticity of certificates
VerumCode can be used more than just to secure packaging to pharmaceuticial companies wishing to minimize counterfeiting.
This technology can be used on any products, including ensuring stock control, and certificates. The stock control function enables the manufacturers to know the location of an expiring product.
Previously, VerumCode has worked with insurance certifications in Egypt, as well as ensuring the authenticity of university degrees.
While there are plenty of anti-counterfeiting technologies out there in the market from large corporations such as Microsoft and Honeywell, VerumCode is available for such a low cost for the manufacturers to use.
The argument for the reluctance of manufacturers to adopt a anti counterfeiting technology. is the cost involved and sometimes the system can still be hacked. Thus the refusal to invest in counterfeiting technology.
There is another assertion that manufacturers benefit from counterfeit product. This may sound like a ridiculous suggestion, a conspiracy theory. How in the world would you benefit when somebody is counterfeiting your product, making money from it and hurting your market share.
It all makes perfect sense when your product causes death or harm to consumers. In many of these instances, brands are faced with a lawsuit for negligence and risk paying millions in damages.
But you can be exonerated if somehow you can claim that the product that causes harm to consumers was a counterfeit product. So it got nothing to do with you.
However, with this new generation of codes protected by sophisticated encryption technology can put an end to all the excuses of not installing an anti-counterfeit system.
According to Walid, it only cost USD 0.001 cent or less to generate the code for a single product.
Versatility & Simplicity
Other counterfeiting systems, such as indelible ink you need to implement a whole eco-system like market surveillance. This will increase the cost and make it inaccessible to small and medium-sized enterprise. They are the backbone of the economy in many countries.
for a non-technical person it is very hard to understand this new generation of code called Verum code. What is the difference with a normal basic QR code?
Normal basic QR code contains information in the code, when you scan it and you will be taken to most probably a website containing some information about a product.
As a counterfieter, after you finished producing the product packaging and so on which is the hard work. The easiest part is copying the QR and printing the tens and thousand of it and just paste it on the product. Khalas. Then you just collect the cash.
With this new generation of code, it is not that simple each code is encrypted and can only be scan once. If you scan it twice, it will tell you that the code has been scanned.
An easier way to understand this, is think of this new generation of code like your thumb. You have a unique finger print. No two person in the world can have identical finger print.
So each code is unique to a single product just like the human finger print. But it goes further than that. The codes are versatile, you can include other information in it, for marketing purposes to upsell other product range.
Like I buy a loaf of bread scan the code and it tells me a specific jam at a discounted price. So here it is more than just your fingerprint it is somewhat similar to your DNA which contain information about yourself, like what diseases you prone to have.
The Verum code has been used to curb corruption by unscroupulous public servant in falsying documents. Of course it has been used to ensure the authencity of a product protecting it from being counterfeited.
But it must not be limited to that, since it can solve many problems that we are facing today. It must be integrated with information that can help government with loss of revenue. Like tax fraud.
In some counries, for example, it is a public secret that SMEs have to set of accounts. One is to document their real revenue and expensses and another set of accounts to be shown to be declared to the Inland Revenue.
Every year these goverments are losing hundred of millions if not billions due to this creative but fraudelant accounting practices.
If every product sold can be track and accounted for, the actual amount of taxable revenue can be ascertain. If the use of these new generation of code can be integrated into the Inland revenue system, millions can be recouped .
The halal food scandal recently, demonstrate the dire need to have an anti counterfeiting system like Verum code. This has to be made one of the requirement in order to safeguard our future genertion.
Halal is so important to us, that every food item can be verified instantly. Right now Jakim do have a system to check whether a product is halal or not. Simply by typing the name of the product.
The problem is counterfeiters used packaging and branding of products that already been conferred with Halal certification..
The Uncomfortable Truth
While we are supppose to think good of others, we live in a world where we are surrounded by crooks and thieves. They’ll do anything to make easy money.
It is depressing to think, that all the hard work, money spend on R&D, time spent to nurture a brand can easily be hijack. In actual fact, the counterfeiter is a culture. That needs to be combated wherever it may happen. They are just as the same as any common criminal the only difference is tend to get away with their crime most of the time, even when loss of life is involved.
Muslim inferiority complex
Muslims around the world especially in Muslim majority country suffer from a weird kind of mental block. If a Muslim comes to them with a technology that can solve the Ummah’s problem, they would not give any attention and dismiss whatever achievement made as impossible to implement.
But if a blonde hair and blue eyes westerner came to them and present a solution they would accept it with very few questions asked. Muslims need to adopt technology made by their own people.
Yes, there was a time, Muslims needs to go to western countries to gain recognition. But that era has ended, the playing field is level, the only thing that is stopping us from \becoming great again is our own inferiority complex and our refusal to adopt Muslim-made technology.
But no system is foolproof, the only way these code can be manipulated is there are, many business entity has control of issuing it. If only a single single entity or organisation is issuing the code, this will eradicate the chance of fraud perpetrated in the system itself by enterprising and unscrupulous people who have access to the system.
Moreover, the more entity issuing the code, it will create confusion among consumers. Ideally, it should be treated like currency, where only a central bank can print currency notes.
This can be done among Muslim countries such as within the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Only then, we can put a stop to halal food fraud. This is necessary to ensure that our future generation will grow up with food that is halal. It is hard to envision that Muslims will be, respected, referred and revered nation when they grew up eating Kangaroo carcasses, packaged as halal meat.
But if we
Shahfizal Musa is the Founder and Managing Editor of Halalop. He graduated with a Law degree from Thames Valley University London. He is an award-winning journalist covering topics such as human trafficking, Muslim research discoveries, and exceptional Muslims.