Concerned about patient safety because of the increasing risks being created as medicines are being repackaged by parallel traders, Pfizer is to introduce new packaging security measures for its medicines sold in Europe.

There is growing evidence of improper re-packaging, poor storage and transportation of parallel imported medicines. Some 140M medicines are parallel traded every year in the European Union and 70% of these medicines are destined for the UK.

Among the security measures to be introduced by Pfizer is tamper evident packaging that will make obvious any attempt to interfere with a medicine before it reaches the patient. By introducing tamper-evident packaging, Pfizer is leading the industry in providing reassurance to pharmacists and patients of the integrity of the Pfizer medicine.

Pfizer believes that efforts to protect the integrity of medicines must include new and enhanced regulations together with more enforcement efforts, enhanced business practices by all participants in the supply chain, the use of new technologies and

heightened diligence and increased accountability by all in the distribution channel.

“A recent audit of Pfizer medicines being imported into the UK by parallel traders has uncovered numerous examples of poorly re-packaged medicines. We are now convinced that the re-packing of medicines by these commercial middlemen adds to the risk of error in the supply chain. We are also concerned that the fragmented parallel trade supply chain could be attractive to would-be counterfeiters,” said European director of trade Julian Mount.

“The SMF’s report highlights the need for increased vigilance in the supply of medicines to patients. Patient safety must remain paramount but, unfortunately, there are now a number of factors that suggest that the integrity of medicines could be threatened, and we now need to take steps to protect the patient from potential harm.”

In response to this move, Jim Thomson from Depression Alliance said: “We applaud the SMF Report – and Pfizer’s move to protect the integrity of its medicines by introducing tamper-proof packaging. The SMF Report tells of product tampering, missing patient information and, perish the thought, an inability to batch recall medicines. This cannot be good for patient safety and it’s high time that there was action to address it and, hopefully, this report will prompt just that.

“We live in a society where people affected by depression and other mental health problems face stigma and discrimination, often making it difficult for them to consult their GP. We are hearing more and more people opting for the anonymity of online pharmacies – where they are able to obtain medicines without a prescription, consultation or any monitoring of their condition.

“This is a highly dangerous practice and we can’t emphasise enough the need for people to consult their GP in the first instance.”