In recent years, counterfeit drugs have posed an escalating threat to public health, leading to a surge in overdose deaths across the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of overdose deaths resulting from counterfeit prescription drugs more than doubled from mid-2019 through the end of 2021.
As this crisis intensifies, businesses are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) technology to tackle this grave issue head-on.
Alitheon’s innovative solution on Counterfeit Drugs
One notable player in the fight against counterfeit drugs is Alitheon, a technology company that has developed a cutting-edge smartphone app to combat this menace. Alitheon’s CEO, Roei Ganzarski, emphasizes the importance of irrefutably identifying every item in order to prevent counterfeit drugs from entering the market.
The Alitheon app achieves this by allowing users to take a picture of the packaging of over-the-counter drugs and verifying their origin from a pharmaceutical company.
Ganzarski explains, Every pill, every bottle, whatever it is that they (the pharmaceutical company) want to protect… every one that goes by, a camera automatically takes a picture of every one of them.” This process generates a digital fingerprint, or what Alitheon terms a “feature print,” which is stored and used for verification purposes.
What sets Alitheon’s solution apart is its ability to identify not only legitimate medicines but also counterfeit pills laced with dangerous substances like fentanyl. Ganzarski emphasizes the importance of this feature, stating, “It might be counterfeit fentanyl, it might be other medicine laced with fentanyl.
The ability for us to identify every item as a unique item that came from the original manufacturer means that you cannot get away with tampering.”
The ongoing battle against fentanyl
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports alarming statistics regarding counterfeit drugs, specifically those containing fentanyl. In 2022, nearly 60 million fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills were seized, reflecting the severity of the crisis.
Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, has emerged as the drug of choice for many, making the fight against its illicit distribution and consumption all the more urgent.
Jay Baines, Commander of the Snohomish County Regional Drug Task Force, acknowledges the prevalence of fentanyl in the current drug landscape. While his task force has developed effective methods for identifying fentanyl, Baines believes that artificial intelligence could provide an additional tool in their arsenal.
He expresses, “That technology would be extremely important for us to have something like that, that we could actually, you know, use our smartphones and pull something up immediately to see what’s going on.”
The rising tide of overdose deaths
The most recent data from the CDC underscores the gravity of the situation. Overdose deaths resulting from counterfeit prescription drugs surged, more than doubling from mid-2019 through the end of 2021.
This alarming trend reflects the urgent need for innovative solutions to tackle the counterfeit drug crisis and save lives.