Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pharma-Security Fail?

I've just been perusing the netwebs and came across an article titled "Counterfeit drugs targeted by technology in India" by the Beeb. Turns out that counterfeit drugs are difficult to distinguish and could cost you your life. The need to correctly identify and secure the identity of medications is needed, and it's needed yesterday.

Along with a QR code solution which could have some credibility to be a sound method of identification was one that took me completely by surprise:

"Another company, PharmaSecure, has come up with a technology called UIMV - unique identification mobile verification. It is a unique code for each product which can be verified by sending texts to the number given."

I'm sorry for being so blunt but let me tell you, this idea is fundamentally flawed!

"Why?" I hear you ask. Well.

Counterfeiters could copy these codes and put them on their own products. Additionally, by providing a number that the consumer is directed to send a text to just smells off. Surely "the bad guys" could also setup their own text messaging service and in a manner similar to phishing (passing themselves off as the legit company, along with branding, wording, layout, etc to appear like the real deal) send responses like your "V1agra is legit!" I don't buy it, it's got potential to a total waste of money, time, effort, trust, and above all else, peoples lives! Trust is difficult to reestablish once you've blown it but how do you restore life where it's been snuffed out?

Pharma companies produce drugs to make cash, and they make an immense amount of it, and at the same time save countless lives. I'm not going into a discussion about how I dislike some (*cough* a lot) about the practices of most Pharma companies--the stories out there are countless--I want to present a potential solution:

The idea of the QR codes sounds decent, but I'm not certain it's 100% foolproof. There are some initial questions such as would the QR code be assigned to an individual strip of drugs or single container; would it be assigned to a box containing several strips/containers; would it be assigned to a batch; or a total brand of drug, for arguments sake lets just say Viagra? If it was for a single strip then that sounds good. But there needs to be more. Perhaps a hologram printed on top of the QR Code like you get on official team merchandise, a green card, or state ID, and if rubbed perhaps changes color. It would cost a couple of extra cents per label but it ensures the code is unique for that unit of drugs. Rather than provide a website address on the packaging, rather have a verification search on the product homepage.

As an added security feature, these labels should have an RF-ID embedded into it. When scanned with RF-ID, the code on that chip should match the QR bar code, and various steps of verification and authentication can be made, quickly and efficiently ensuring a unique thumbprint for each unit distributed. This will enable easy tracking through production, inventory, QA, distribution, etc to finally be sold at the cash register in a pharmacy. An audit trail would be kept throughout the process, so that this unit of drugs can be traced right back to the individual carton of ingredient x. At the point of sale, an audit entry would be made recording the date, time, location, and where laws permit, the prescribed individuals identity. When the code is checked by the customer for authenticity on the products website they would be presented with a valid/counterfeit notice, along with the manufacture date & time, the sale date, and a general location such as state and country.

Such a notice could look like:

"The Viagra strip you just checked is valid. It contains 9 tablets with a blue color and has marking xyz (show picture of single tablet).

This strip was reported sold: 01 January 1970, NY, US.

If you did not purchase this strip on the above date, DO NOT take this medication until you've verified the origin of this medication by phoning: 1-800-DRUGSID"

Should any medication ever be recalled, it should be a very simple matter of tracing down the final patients and notifying them of the recall. Law enforcement could also be provided with scanners to identify the source of illegitimately traded drugs once they hit the black market. And should the customer not have a means of scanning the code, they can simply present the unit to any pharmacy who can scan both bar code and RF-ID to verify it's authenticity.

The RF-ID and QR bar code combination would only be "Activated" once the unit leaves the factory. This is the final internal verification process showing that they match, and that the product is valid.

What are your thoughts and views? Be sure to comment below.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Environment, Carbon Emissions and a possible way to reduce?

Ok, so I've been reading that Sir Richard Branson is offering a 25 million whopper cheque to anyone who can come up with a plan to remove carbon from the atmosphere. So here's a long shot in the dark.

Having done a little bit of research, I have come to understand that up to around 50% of the worlds carbon created from the combustion of fossil fuels has been absorbed by the oceans. This in turn is changing the oceans ph levels making them more acidic which then make the oceans warm up. Carbon can only be absorbed by the oceans at lower temperatures, so the higher they get, the less absorption occurs. There are consequences throughout the cycle for the acidity levels changing and there have been fast biological disasters as a consequence. I imagine if the cycle was running optimally, with the right temperatures for absorption

So I thought, why not neutralize it? See, the carbon I've been referring to is bicarbonate. So bicarb changes saline waters ph, and bicarb can be neutralized by vinegar, or more specifically Acetic acid. We have tons of vinegar don't we, or we could make it? It's created from the fermentation of ethanol, and I think it's most natural form of production is sour wine and can produce a non-toxic slime of acetic acid bacteria and soluble cellulose and is otherwise known as mother of vinegar.

What if we dumped loads of vinegar into the oceans? Surely that would help neutralize the bicarbonate which would allow the oceans to cool up again which would in turn cause more carbon to be absorbed? Would mother of vinegar be able to live in a specially formulated form on, in or near the oceans without affecting the rest of the environment? Crazy perhaps.

I suppose someone else has thought of this, but it also leads me to question, can we use this method as a filtration system, one that is sustainable and actually neutralizes carbon once it's down here and not up in our atmosphere. The less we pump up there the better, but also would it reduce actual carbon waste for the dumps.

In theory I'm thinking of a highly salinated tank that exhaust fumes passes through which would absorb the bicarbonate and then with the introduction of the right levels of vinegar gets neutralized. If you combine vinegar and sodium bicarbonate a volatile reaction occurs, converting the mixture to water, carbon dioxide and sodium ethanoate. So the sodium ethanoate can be collected, and used in science classes, the water drained, and the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere for the plants to absorb and convert into oxygen. Perhaps it could be relatively easy to maintain, much like filling up the radiator, and if using sustainable materials a very green method.

These are just ideas, and I'm not a scientist, or ever really studied chemistry to a great deal for that matter. By posing the questions, perhaps it can spark debate, or squash the idea entirely as totally and utterly ludicrous. However what would be crazy is me spend a small lifetime studying chemistry and biology to the extent that I would be able to answer these questions only to find out that I was a bit crazy to even consider the idea...if perhaps not insane.

What's it going to be folks? I invite any and all discussion on the topic. Scientists out there, I'm interested in knowing if these are even possible, let alone feasible for the time being.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya

Let's face it, the current situation in the world is pretty bleak to say the least. The economy doesn't seem to be picking up and I personally anticipate another two years of uncertainty before things get right. The latest development in Libya has the world throwing it's arms up in the air saying "Oh no! Not again".

The reason I feel compelled to write this article is based off reading a news article titled "The 'Obama Doctrine': Has the president gone neocon in Libya?" by The Week (http://theweek.com/article/index/213369/the-obama-doctrine-has-the-president-gone-neocon-in-libya) and in the article they discuss the similarities between GW starting an assault on Afghanistan and then Iraq, mentions that "Obama opposed the so-called Bush Doctrine of preemptive, and if necessary, unilateral war against any perceived threat to the security of the United States" and I don't blame him for being opposed at the time. Hind sight has taught us that many mistakes have been made over the last decade, including fabricated stories that caused alarm and despondency in the US and the UK, along with other coalition countries.

However, can we as an educated, well funded, and fundamentally free society, whether we are English, Scottish, French, American, Spanish, or any other first world nation idly stand by while innocent lives are being snuffed out because a despot feels his grasp of power is slipping out of his reach. Having been ousted by his own people, is it morally right that he should go on a rampage against the very people that make the nation of Libya what it is? To kill men, women and children out of spite for their wishes?

Let me put this scenario to you:

What if Obama suddenly lost the plot, and issued a Presidential decree that the three levels of Government were now null and void, and that the ONLY law would be himself, President, and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and anyone opposing the President would be silenced? That silence would also be expected of all persons within the States, and freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and all the other rights that we hold so dear are no longer rights? Would you stand by and allow such a thing to happen? I don't think so!

So how can we allow people such as Gaddafi, Mugabe, Kim Il Sung, Sein, Mebazaa, Salih, Triet, to name but a few of the worlds dictators (the whole sleuth can be seen at: http://www.planetrulers.com/category/dictators/) to carry on oppressing their people with iron fists?

Personally in my heart of hearts, something tells me that the weapons of mass destruction that were the heart of why we invaded Iraq still do exist. It doesn't shock me that they haven't been found either. When you take a country the size of Iraq, mixed with a very tight family that is the cabinet of that country (Saddam and his Sons), it wouldn't be an impossible task to grab a bunch of people that you don't like, truck them out into some remote spot and have them move those barrels of what ever dirty bomb material and bury them and the individuals that put those materials into place and then bulldoze and wipe evidence of it every existing. We've seen movies of such practices in the past...remember no loose ends...it's at the heart and soul of anyone trying to cover their tracks against prying eyes, and every crook in the book has done it, from small time gangster, to mobsters, to yes, dare I say it, leaders of nations. I mean, didn't Hitler do just that, except with millions of people before anyone really realized what was going on? Now that Saddam and his sons are dead, the real truth died with them.

How can I as an individual even contemplate such things? Well, I've experienced life in a dictatorship. Mugabe has been ruling Zimbabwe since 1980, and in that time he has committed atrocious crimes against humanity. He slaughtered 20 000 Matabele people in the south western parts of Zimbabwe, and bodies were thrown down wells and mine shafts which were then blasted to cover up the evidence. (Hey, wait a minute...isn't that called genocide? Or what about perhaps ethnic cleansing?) He has illegally invaded homes, and farms, and communities, blaming the west for his actions. He has schools taken over during election times and these schools are turned into youth militia camps, encouraging young boys and girls to kill their parents, or be subjected to gang rapes repeatedly every single night until they subject and take part in the activities themselves (Umm...wasn't this depicted in that movie Blood Diamond?). These youths are then taken into rural and urban communities to wreak havoc, terrorism, and who knows what else.

I do not condone violence of any kind, but really when you think about it, if these despots are going to kill their own people simply to remain in power, and if it's the will of the people that they should be ousted, then they should be removed by force if they refuse to run by the rules of International law.