Counterfeit medications are a boon for scammers and a bane to patients, who face potentially life-threatening consequences when they unknowingly take a fake medicine. In recent years, governments have become more proactive in encouraging safeguards for the pharmaceutical industry. In Europe, pharmaceutical companies are required to follow what are known as Good Distribution Practices (GDP), which task companies with ensuring the quality of pharmaceutical products as they move through supply chains. In 2018, the Government of Japan directed all Japanese companies to follow suit.
GDP standards help protect against supply chain infiltration by counterfeit medications and require that pharmaceutical companies, transporters, and distributors monitor conditions, such as temperatures, that are key to the integrity of pharmaceuticals. Though the emphasis on GDP predates the COVID-19 pandemic, the standards are more important than ever as pharmaceutical companies prepare to distribute COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
But implementing GDP is expensive for individual companies. For the Japanese pharmaceutical industry, the initiative came at a particularly difficult time, when companies were facing budget pressures due to a change in the country’s drug pricing system.