By Paul Ndiho
The global counterfeit drug trade is a billion-dollar industry and it is thriving in Africa, where the markets are flooded with fake and poor-quality drugs. Could a new Ghanaian mobile phone-based system known as mPedigree be the solution in the fight against counterfeit?
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 100,000 deaths a year in Africa are linked to the counterfeit drug trade and that nearly 10 percent of prescription drugs available in pharmacies and hospitals around the world are counterfeit.
Well thanks to Ghanaian social entrepreneur Bright Simons, who has developed his cutting edge mobile phone-based system known as mPedigree, which enables consumers to check the authenticity and validity of their medication through instant messaging.
Eugene Boadu head of Corporate Affairs and marketing at mPedigree, says there application is empowering the general public against counterfeit products.
“The app that empowers the consumer at the point of consumption to authenticate or confirm whether the product that you have just bought and are about to consume is genuine, and is coming from the right producers, has gone through the right checks.”
Drugs protected through mPedigree carry a short code that is revealed through scratching a specific area of the packaging. Users send this unique I.D free via text message on their smartphones short message Service (SMS) and they will immediately receive a message to verify the drug’s authenticity.
“With this new system of authenticating the safety and originality of drugs, you are sure what you are buying, so would not have reported cases of people suffering because they took in counterfeit drugs, so I’m sure what I’m buying, having test I know I am safe with this drug.”
Most exciting, perhaps, is that the system is now being used in more than six African countries and has been taken beyond Africa.
“Mobile phones are quite pervasive. In Ghana for instance, even in the hinterlands, you have quite a number of people using mobile phones. Not too long ago my grandmother requested for a mobile phone. So what that does is that you already have a device that a lot of people are hooked onto, and it makes a lot of sense and ease to be able to empower them to through that device protect and control their consumption patterns, especially for essential goods and commodities.
Earlier this year, mPedigree entered into a partnership with, GTP, makers of premium African prints — who are facing a huge challenge with counterfeiting. Steven Kofi Badu is the company’s marketing director.
“These shops are still selling our designs, but not with our labels. Somebody else has taken those designs and put their labels on them. Some have even gone further to put not just their label, they take our designs and put our own labels on it, so that makes it even more serious than it used to be. So we are losing market shares, we losing money, we losing margins, we are really struggling at this point.”
Badu believes that counterfeiting kill’s innovation kills industries and destroys the economy.
“We want to encourage consumers to always look out for the genuine thing, it might cost you slightly more, but you are better off buying a genuine product.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the lack of proper monitoring of imported drugs in many parts of Africa is allowing counterfeit criminals to cash in on a continent that’s battling with other serious issues such as disease and poverty.
Paul Ndiho is a Ugandan – American video journalist/ executive producer, Africa Innovations & Technology based in Washington D.C with interests in innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in Africa. He is passionate about mentorship and developing the next generation of Africa’s young leaders. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook: Paul Ndiho and Twitter: @pndiho