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Article | February 25, 2011
Fighting counterfeit drugs in Africa
Free consumer text messaging service targets counterfeit pharmaceutical market that causes at least 700,000 deaths per year globally.
Business Wire reported that the African social enterprise mPedigree Network and HP introduced a potentially life-saving service that targets counterfeit pharmaceuticals by enabling people in Nigeria and Ghana to easily check the authenticity of their malaria medication.
With the new service, patients taking a range of medication manufactured by May & Baker Nigeria PLC and the KAMA Group of Ghana can send a free text message to instantly receive a response as to whether the tablets or syrup bottles they received are genuine.
The system from HP and mPedigree assigns a code that is revealed by scratching off a coating on the drugs’ packaging. This code can be text messaged by the consumer or medical professional to a free SMS (short message service) number to verify the authenticity of the drug.
If the drug packaging contains a counterfeit code, the consumer will receive a message alerting them that the pack may be a fake, as well as a phone number to report the incident. Pharmaceutical safety regulators in Ghana and Nigeria are working to ensure that the concerns of users are promptly addressed.
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“Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are a big problem for developing nations, particularly in Africa. It is important that we develop an African solution to an African problem, using the resources and technologies that are widely available and easy to implement,” said Bright Simons, founder, mPedigree Network. “It’s absolutely imperative that people can trust the authenticity of the drugs they are consuming, and this system will give them an easy and effective way of doing so.”
The service is funded by the participating pharmaceutical companies. May & Baker Nigeria PLC supplies its distribution network of chemists and clinics across Nigeria with medicines that are packaged with codes. The deployment covers three of the company’s lines of anti-malarial (artelum), anti-amoebicide (loxagyl) and analgesic (easadol) medication.
“Over the years, we have invested a huge amount of time and money in developing drugs which will protect the health of people around the world,” said Dr. Joseph Ikemefuna Odumodu, chief executive, May & Baker Nigeria, and president, West African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Assn. “It’s in both our and our customers’ interest that they receive the full benefit of that investment. This system will safeguard both of us now and in the future.”
HP provides the hosting infrastructure for the service, as well as the security and integrity systems, through its data centers in Frankfurt, Germany. mPedigree Network is providing the business process interfaces that allow pharmaceutical companies to code their products for the system and to monitor use of genuine and counterfeit drugs.
The service, which was recently endorsed by the West African Health Organization, is expected to be available for other medications and in more countries in the near future. All GSM mobile network operators in Ghana and Nigeria are signatories to the scheme.
“Technology plays a critical role in solving many serious health problems around the world,” said Gabriele Zedlmayer, vice president, Office of Global Social Innovation, HP. “While Nigeria and Ghana are the starting points for this program, we are working to create a scalable infrastructure to be used by other regions where counterfeit medicine is a growing.”
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