By Ashifi Gogo
In the U.S., large scale drug counterfeiting is rare, but in some parts of the world, particularly in developing nations, it’s rampant. This makes fighting treatable diseases like malaria – which kills a million people every year — extremely difficult. According to the World Health Organization, about 200,000 of the world’s malaria deaths alone can be linked to ineffective treatment resulting from counterfeit anti-malarials.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors globally are now experimenting with ways to combat counterfeiting by creating a smarter pharmaceutical supply. My company, Sproxil, provides a cloud-based service called Mobile Product Authentication™ (MPA) that allows consumers to use their mobile phones to determine if their medicine is genuine, at point of purchase, in a matter of seconds. Each package using the MPA service bears a label with a unique PIN as well as a text number. At the point of purchase, the consumer scratches the label to reveal the PIN code, then sends it to our authentication service via a free text message. Within seconds, a reply is sent back indicating whether the drug is genuine or counterfeit.
I’m proud that in January we reached a milestone within regions of Africa where consumers have used MPA technology one million times to verify their medication.
I’m equally proud of the partnerships that have enabled us to play a critical role in combating drug counterfeiting – from leading pharmaceutical manufacturers such as Merck and GlaxoSmithKline Johnson & Johnson, to technology leaders including IBM.
Through IBM’s SmartCamp program, we’ve made important connections with both potential clients and business partners. Using IBM ILOG technology, our pharmaceutical clients can now manage their data more easily through an enhanced dashboard view of all drug purchases and counterfeiting incidents, including charts and graphics based on real-time data.
Like medicine, information technology can be a life-saving tool, but it must be supported by national drug regulatory authorities committed to education, training and enforcement. We must also remember that while today’s technologies can outsmart counterfeiters, that may not be true tomorrow; counterfeiters desperately want to stay in what is unfortunately a profitable business.
Through a continuous cycle of collaboration – government creating and enforcing laws, pharmaceutical companies committed to protecting products and innovators leveraging technology to create cost-effective solutions – we can stay one step ahead.