Matrix Code Technology Joins Counterfeit Stoppers


A new ‘track and trace’ technology is being developed to uniquely mark pharmaceutical products and improve traceability.


The technique will allow faster identification and resolution of any manufacturing quality problems but will also prove invaluable as an anti-counterfeit measure because the specific coding and validation systems are almost impossible to copy. This technology will enable manufacturers to mark products with a matrix code that is either unique to the item or shared by only a small number of items produced together linked to a look-up database.

The matrix code acts as a ‘key’ to access much more detailed information, such as the specific batch codes of raw materials used during production, time of manufacture and production line. The codes can be printed or laser etched onto products, applied to virtually any substrate and can even be added onto the surface of pharmaceutical capsules or coated tablets.

Matrix codes can be as small as 2 mm by 2 mm holding the code for up to 10 billion numbers. The codes can be read by widely available readers or in many cases from a picture taken with even the simplest camera phone.

For example, a doctor in remotest Africa about to dispense a treatment course for malaria could take a picture of the product packaging code, send it by SMS to a centralized online database and within seconds have an auto-response to confirm the validity of the product and be sure he/she is not dispensing an ineffective or even potentially fatal counterfeit product.

This technology is one of several new methods expected to impede counterfeiters. Serialized labeling is a key factor in these technologies, as well as instant connection to manufacturer databases for authenticity verification via internet or cell phone. A recently discovered method for identifying counterfeit medicines is combined spectroscopic identification using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, near infrared spectroscopy and Rama spectroscopy. In addition, consumers can verify the safety of their pharmacies by using on-line verification at Together these technological advancements will improve the safety of medicines provided world-wide.