The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, TD (left) launched the Irish Medicines Verification Organisation (IMVO) in Greystones this week and is pictured with Professor, Pat O'Mahony, chairperson, IMVO and Karene Moynan, managing pharmacist, Roche's Allcare Pharmacy, Greystones. IMVO will roll out a new national system to verify that medicines supplied to the public are genuine. (Pic: Mac Innes Photography)

A new organisation has been launched this week to protect patients from fake medicines. The Irish Medicines Verification Organisation (IMVO) has been established by key players involved in the supply of medicines in Ireland.

These include manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and pharmacists. IMVO’s establishment is part of a series of EU-wide measures to tackle the growing problem of fake or false medicines.

Fake medicines are a growing problem globally. In 2016 alone, over 650,000 dosage units of falsified and other illegal medicines bought over the Internet were detained coming into Ireland, according to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).

To date, there have been no reports of falsified medicines being distributed through legitimate channels in Ireland, however, eight such cases were detected in the UK between 2011 and 2015, so the risk cannot be ignored.

Part of IMVO’s work will include the introduction, as required under new EU legislation, of a new special barcode on all medicine packs. This barcode will contain a serial number and other details, which will allow a pharmacist to check that a medicine is legitimate.

Before supplying the medicine to a patient, the pharmacist will scan the barcode to check the data against a central database managed by IMVO. If the pack details are not found in the database, the pharmacist will then be alerted allowing them to further investigate whether a medicine is fake.

With this new barcode system due to take effect from February 2019, the members of IMVO are working to ensure that all necessary systems are in place by the deadline.

Further information about IMVO is available on its website or by email at