Want to ensure that the medicine or supplement you are taking is legit?

The first thing you need to do is to check if the product box has the Meditag holographic security label, as well as a unique eight-digit registration number beginning with MAL, and ending with A for controlled drugs, X for over-the-counter drugs. T for traditional medicines and N for nutritional or health supplements.

All pharmaceutical products sold in Malaysia must be registered with the Drug Control Authority, assigned a unique registration number and labelled with the Meditag security label, which is solely produced by Mediharta Sdn Bhd.

But how do you ensure that the security label you see is authentic?

While previously, pharmacies had a Meditag hologram decoder for this purpose, now smartphone users can check the authenticity of their medicines directly themselves via the Meditag Checker app.

This free app allows users to scan the QR code embedded within the fourth and latest version of the Meditag holographic security label on such products to check whether or not they are genuine.

The app also provides direct links to the relevant Health Ministry websites to enable users to find out more information about the product they are scanning, as well as to instantly report any fake products they may detect.

According to Mediharta chairman Datuk Dr Mohd Nordin Mohd Nor, this latest version of Meditag also has individually-coded labels, enabling track-and-trace technology that gives retailers and the authorities the option of keeping track of these products.

Health secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Chen Chaw Min noted that the Meditag label, launched in 2005, is the first of its kind in the world.

“The use of this security label has increased the effectiveness of enforcement activities,” he said during the launch of the Meditag 4 label at a Kuala Lumpur hotel recently.

“(From January 2016) Until November 2017, as many as 43,207 unregistered products worth RM75,4mil were confiscated.”

According to a directive by Pharmacy Services senior director Dr Salmah Bahri, the use of Meditag 4 was to be implemented as of Oct 12.

However, the Meditag 3 security labels can still be used by manufacturers and importers until their current stock is finished.

The authenticity of Meditag 3 security labels can also be verified via the Meditag Checker app, although this third version does not have the extra layer of security provided by the embedded QR code in Meditag 4 labels.

Step-by-step instructions on how to authenticate the two versions of the security label are detailed within the app.

Dr Chen also noted that the Pharmacy Enforcement Division now has a state-of-the-art cyber forensic lab to enable them to monitor and investigate the online sales of unregistered and counterfeit medicines.

“This lab is on par with cyberlabs owned by other enforcement agencies like Cybersecurity Malaysia, the police and customs,” he said.