By Laurie N. Jacques:

Counterfeiting is widespread because it is lucrative and often difficult to detect. Nanowerk highlights the use of nanotechnology in the battle against counterfeit goods. Nanoencryption provides a new option for distinguishing between genuine and counterfeit goods, particularly pharmaceuticals.

Drug counterfeiting is particularly problematic because it compromises patient safety in addition to causing monetary losses and erosion of brand value. The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest estimates that counterfeit drug sales are growing at an annual rate of about 13% – nearly the twice the growth rate of genuine pharmaceutical products – and could reach $75 billion by 2010.

Anti-counterfeiting strategies rely heavily on supply chain monitoring and control, which may include the use of specially printed labels and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to identify products at the package level. These labels and tags are readily visible to counterfeiters who can then try to circumvent or replicate them. More importantly, their use is limited to tracking of package, not the package contents.

As the Nanowerk article explains, nanoencryption offers advantages in identification and monitoring of pharmaceutical products. Individual tablets of other unit doses may be tagged, not just the package that holds them and the tags are invisible to the naked eye. Authentication is quick and does not destroy the tablet so the tablet can be used later as evidence in a civil or criminal action. Nanoencryption also may be useful in authenticating other frequently counterfeited items such as currency, auto and aircraft parts, software, and luxury goods.