Sproxil's brand authentication technology earns IBM, MITX honors

Mobile phone technology allows users in third-world countries to determine if a packaged product is genuine or counterfeit.

Sproxil, Inc.’s Mobile Product AuthenticationTM (MPA) enables consumers to text-message an item-unique code for a rapid response that confirms a brand’s genuineness. In Nigeria, for example, consumers purchase medications with a scratch card attached to the package. They then scratch and text the unique numbers on the scratch card to a short code to instantly receive an SMS reply confirming the genuineness or fakeness of the product. To date, the company has coded more than 800,000 packages of Glucophage, a product used to treat diabetes.

The company’s technology helped Sproxil win IBM’s SmartCamp Boston, which brought together five start-up companies with 25 world-class entrepreneurs, investors, and industry experts for a single day to work to build a Smarter Planet. The objective of the program: Help companies build an “investor-ready” commercial proposition to secure funding, with winners eligible for a three-month IBM mentorship program.

Also last month, Sproxil won the 2010 Mobile Infrastructure award in the 7th Annual MITX Technology Awards, which recognize emergent and innovative technologies developed in the New England area, as well as the individuals and organizations responsible for driving these advancements. The Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX) is the country’s premier Internet business and marketing association.

Third-world opportunities

According to Sproxil, both branded and generic products are subject to counterfeiting, and no country or therapeutic class is immune. As a result, the existence and distribution of counterfeit drugs poses a public health problem that has reached crisis proportions in many developing areas of the world. The company provided the following details pertaining to third-world counterfeiting issues:

• The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that counterfeit pharmaceuticals result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people around the world annually. A recent WHO report estimates the global value of trade in counterfeit pharmaceuticals is about US$200 billion. Unfortunately, though, there is a large knowledge gap in the developed world about the emerging markets where pharmaceutical companies sell their products.

• Members of more developed societies are challenged to comprehend or relate to the risks people in the developing world face from counterfeit pharmaceuticals. For example, 84 infants died last year in Nigeria from a single batch of teething syrup tainted with chemicals found in anti-freeze. People can purchase medications from a cart or even a hand-held tray in developing countries.

• A wealth of possibilities exist for protecting consumers in developing countries from counterfeit drugs that can leave them severely ill – or worse. In those parts of the globe where more people have mobile phones than bank accounts or Internet access, pharmaceutical companies can use these devices to implement software and service solutions that offer world-class brand protection.

• All too often aid intended for a needy population is diverted along the way into the wrong hands and the benefit never reaches those who need it the most.

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