HP and African social enterprise mPedigree Network
have introduced a potentially life-saving service that targets counterfeit pharmaceuticals
by enabling people in Nigeria
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 get an instant response as to whether the tablets or syrup bottles they
received are genuine.
Counterfeit medicines often contain the wrong quantity of
active pharmaceutical ingredients, which can result in illness or death. 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
are working to ensure that the concerns of users are promptly addressed.
“Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are a big problem for
developing nations, particularly in Africa. It
is important that we developed 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 has already begun supplying its
extensive distribution network of chemists and clinics across Nigeria with medicines that are
packaged with codes. The current deployment covers three of the company’s lines
of anti-malarial (artelum), anti-amoebicide (loxagyl) and analgesic (easadol)
“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 Association.
“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 is providing 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
“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 issue.” Background on counterfeit drugs The World Health
Organization estimates that counterfeit drugs constitute: — approximately 10
percent of the global drug market(1) — 25 percent of the drug market in
developing countries(2) Use of counterfeit drugs is estimated to: — cause at
least 700,000 deaths per year(3) — finance a $75 billion global counterfeit pharmaceutical
industry in 2010(4) Counterfeit drugs also have a severe impact on the pharmaceutical
industry, with manufacturers suffering economic losses from patent and copyright
infringement. In Nigeria
alone, hundreds of thousands of medicine buyers can benefit from the technology
as up to 6 million packs could be integrated into the service over the coming