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Moving toward an infinitely safer food and drug supply chain



Peter Gadd, HP Software PSO Cloud Services Director, HP Software Professional Services, is responsible for worldwide sales and service of HP PSO’s Cloud Service offerings. His role at HP has been to successfully take a number of innovative cloud-based services to market to help organizations solve real-world problems, many of which can have significant impacts on the brand and security of their products.


His background is predominantly in customer-facing roles in the IT industry, where he has held senior-level positions over a 20-year career. During this time he also spent five years as a management consultant, focusing on delivering business and technology solutions to a range of market sectors. Peter is based in HP’s Bracknell (UK) office, and can be contacted at


There are few more stark visual contrasts I can think of than that between the elegant Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., and a non-governmental organisation’s field operations in sub-Saharan Africa. In my job, I am privileged to have a view of both.


HP Global Product Authentication Service (GPAS) was recognised this year as a laureate in the Computerworld Honors programme, which singles out organisations that use IT to benefit society. The award banquet was held June 3 at the Mellon in D.C., bringing together dignitaries from around the world. GPAS was named as a Computerworld Laureate in the Safety & Security category. Although we did not win the 21st Century Achievement Award for our category—the award went to the US Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command for its work fighting piracy on the high seas—it was gratifying to be honoured as a Computerworld Laureate.


In addition to this honour, we were recently invited to participate in a working session with two US pharmaceutical giants and a UN organisation to discuss how the use of IT systems can improve supply-chain traceability, products validation and data capture. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 60 percent of the drugs that get out to the developing world contain the wrong drug, no active ingredient or do not contain the right amount of the drug to be effective. In fact, the International Policy Network estimates that 700,000 deaths per year from malaria and tuberculosis are attributable to fake drugs. A study published last year by the Lancet medical journal and conducted by a unit of the National Institutes of Health found that 35 percent of 2,300 malaria drug samples tested in sub-Saharan Africa were of “poor quality”—either fake, expired or badly made. Such pills “are very likely to jeopardize the unprecedented progress and investments in control and elimination of malaria,” the paper’s authors concluded.


Mapping grey market activity drives improved consumer protection

GPAS makes it possible to see where authentication of tagged products occurs at any point in the supply chain. By mapping in real time the location of bottles, boxes, cases and pallets of a shipment of pharmaceuticals or other cold-chain products, we can see where these products are being stolen or counterfeited—safeguarding public health and making it possible for major public health organizations, pharmaceutical companies and governments to more effectively serve the most vulnerable global populations and deliver life-saving drugs to those in need.


The granular application of GPAS holds great potential to keep the food and drug supply chain safer for all of us. The problem is huge and hard to track. The US Chamber of Commerce estimates that 64 percent of counterfeit products are purchased from legitimate shops and retailers. I recently found out in conversation with an industry veteran, that it’s not uncommon for the drug supply to get contaminated at the point of manufacture. When this occurs, there is often little to be done except broadcast a blanket recall of that drug. But if more drugs were labeled and tracked with a system like GPAS, that would allow for much closer monitoring of the supply chain—and, in turn, a closer relationship between doctors, pharmacies and patients. Hence, if the entire lot of a medication I’ve recently filled turns out to be contaminated, the system could notify my pharmacist, my doctor and me at the same time so I can return my bottle for a new one. Apply a similar scenario to the food chain and you’re looking at far fewer outbreaks of food-borne illness, food recalls and so on.


When we realize this objective, the dignitaries gathering at a dinner in D.C. are kept safer, as are the most vulnerable communities in the developing world.


Learn more by reading Brand protection through the cloud and watching the video Brand protection in a counterfeit world.


Related links:

Computerworld Honors 2013

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