Counterfeit drugs may be health threats to the people who use them because of improper ingredients, contamination and other problems.An Israeli company, BSecure, has developed methods to protect consumers and manufacturers from the counterfeiting of brand name pharmaceuticals that costs U.S. drug manufacturers billions per year and can endanger public health in the countries where the counterfeit products are sold.

BSecure, of Cesarea, Israel, is a holding company for six smaller Israeli companies, each dedicated to producing its own special line of technologies to foil would-be counterfeiters. The company has developed what it calls “track and trace” technologies to ensure that pharmaceuticals end up in the proper hands so they can’t be easily duplicated by rogue drug labs.

The company sells special tracking lasers, amorphic threads, invisible inks and metallic implant products to ensure that the products are genuine. Immuno-assay techniques are tuned by BSecure’s bioengineers to detect specific chemicals at parts per billion allowing drug importers and distributors to access the quality and quantity of the active ingredients within minutes.

These techniques are important beyond the need to protect drug company profits. Counterfeit drugs may also contain too much, too little or no active ingredient, the wrong ingredients or high levels of impurities, contaminants and even toxic substances, causing a health threat to the people who use them.

“We use highly specific bioengineered recognition molecules to detect simple chemical codes implanted into a tablet, gel coating or liquid form of a drug,” said Gordon Fishman, BSecure’s chairman and co-founder, emphasizing that the security tactic in no way changes the efficacy of the drug.

BSecure’s technology is also geared to protecting consumers against “gray market” versions of drugs.

A gray market exists when a company sends merchandise to a poorer country at a reduced price so that people in that country can afford it; but then, through an organized chain of criminals, the merchandise is redirected back to the originating country to be sold at a higher price with the illegal re-sellers profiting from the difference.

This process deprives patients in poorer countries of access to desperately needed medications. The most tragic example of this involves AIDS drugs that have been sold at a reduced cost to countries in Africa and end up coming back to the United States.

The role of security products and technologies is crucial to drug piracy enforcement, said Ian Lancaster from Global Forum Organisers Reconnaissance International, a British-based group that overseas drug policing issues.

Lancaster said that some of the most innovative solutions are being developed by BSecure and other Israeli security and authentication product companies, using sophisticated coded and covert authentication solutions.

“Israel offers a unique combination of high-tech savoir faire from the army and the high-tech and medical knowledge from both Israeli and Russian scientists,” Lancaster said.

BSecure works with many other U.S. companies, including New Balance athletic shoes and 3M, in a wide variety of sectors beyond pharmaceuticals. But most clients request that the anti-counterfeiting work remain confidential.

“We do our work in the shadows,” said Fishman, stressing the importance of confidentiality in product security agreements.

At a recent conference on brand protection in New York, organizer Pira International released a study showing that the counterfeiting of brand name products accounts for about 6 percent of world trade, amounting to an estimated $260 billion a year.

The United States, as the world’s largest exporter of name brands, is particularly damaged by this activity. Manufacturers and distributors of name-brand software, recorded music, auto parts, fashions, alcohol and tobacco are impacted the most by counterfeiting.

BSecure was formerly known as PitKit Technologies and is a holding and marketing company formed by its mother company, PitKit Printing Enterprises Ltd, established in 1967.