Counterfeit drugs are killing Americans and some companies are turning to technology for help. Specifically, artificial intelligence.
The CDC reports that overdose deaths from fake prescription drugs have been increasing since 2019.
“When you can identify every item irrefutably, you can make sure that counterfeit items don’t come in,” said Alitheon CEO Roei Ganzarski.
Alitheon has a smartphone app that can validate over-the-counter drugs by taking a picture of the packaging and verifying which pharmaceutical company produced them.
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“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,” Ganzarski said. “In that instance, a digital fingerprint, or what we call a feature print, is created and stored.”
Alitheon tests a lot of medicine that you could find in a pharmacy, but the app can also identify fake pills that are laced with fentanyl.
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“It might be counterfeit fentanyl, it might be other medicine laced with fentanyl,” Ganzarski said. “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 latest data from the DEA reports that almost 60 million fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills were seized in 2022.
“We’re just trying to keep a lid on it,” said Snohomish County Regional Drug Task Force Commander Jay Baines. “It’s so prevalent wherever we go. Fentanyl is obviously the drug of choice right now.”
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The task force currently has a strong method for identifying fentanyl, but Baines also thinks artificial intelligence could help the cause.
“That technology would be extremely important for us to have something like that,” Baines said. “That we could actually, you know, use our smartphones and pull something up immediately to see what’s going on.”
The most recent data from the CDC reports that the number of overdose deaths from counterfeit prescription drugs more than doubled from the middle of 2019 through the end of 2021.
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