Text messaging will fight drug counterfeiting in Africa

Another innovative new application for African cell phone users is described in this story: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_21/b4179037128534.htm

If drug companies sign on, purchasers of prescription drugs will be able to text message a unique bar code number on the package to a service provider and receive an immediate confirmation that it is (or is not!) what it claims to be.  Two providers (mPedigree and Sproxil) will be testing competing services later this year, and both Merck and Glaxo-SmithKline are interested.

This new service, if implemented, will address at least part of the problem we commented on in February http://casipblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/africa-as-a-dumping-ground-for-counterfeit-goods.

According to the Financial Times, the number of mobile telephones in Africa rose from 15.6 million in 2000 to 135 million in 2005. That represents a compound annual growth rate of almost 54%, compared with 24% globally.  Between 2005 and 2009, when the installed base had increased to 300 million units, the growth rate slowed to 22%.  And a study by the London Business School concluded that an extra ten mobile phones per 100 people in a typical developing country leads to an additional 0.44 percentage points of growth in GDP per person[1].

The market has continued to expand, exciting new services such as M-Pesa (money transfers) continue to be introduced, and competition between providers is intense.   Scientific American warns, however, that the increasing reliance on mobile telephony for sensitive transactions presents risks:

As cell phones become more technologically advanced, they will become the top tech platform for the large majority of the world…. Mobile devices and networks, however, will be vulnerable to malware, hacker attacks and theft, just like computers are today.

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP


[1] http://www.theglobalist.com/globalicons/syndication/sample.htm

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3 responses to “Text messaging will fight drug counterfeiting in Africa

  1. This technology has potential for the seed industry and crop protection chemicals where counterfeit products are widespread.

  2. Thank you for continuing to inform people about this issue and potential solutions. I wanted to clarify though that Sproxil’s pilot in Nigeria was launched in February 2010 and has now been replaced by Sproxil’s fully operational MAS service. To date tens of thousands of messages have been sent over the system and thousands of patients are being protected from purchasing counterfeit pharmaceuticals. To better understand how patients and companies are benefiting you may download a case study at http://www.sproxil.com/brochure.php.

  3. Thanks so much for the update, Alden.

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