Project Details

Photo of many different medical tablets


Tackling counterfeit drugs with mobile technology

By mPedigree Network

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @mPedigroup

  • Health
  • Data
  • Internet
  • Mobile

2,000 people die from counterfeit drugs a day, and up to 30% of a country's pharmaceutical drugs can be bogus – mPedigree is a nifty coding system that lets consumers check the surety of their supply by sending a text message from even the most basic phone.

Fake and sub-standard drugs besiege the developing world, responsible for the deaths of close to a million Africans a year. Small wonder that some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and regulatory agencies have already signed up to the mPedigree service to secure their supply lines: the tech is used in Ghana, Kenya, India, and Nigeria (where it is on 50 million antimalarials alone), and is being piloted in Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, and Bangladesh.

The service couldn’t be easier for consumers – each product has a code you scratch its packaging to reveal. You text the short code to a toll-free number, and within seconds a text comes back showing the product’s history and verifying its quality. The technology is similar to the mass serialisation methods manufacturers use in American pedigree systems, with the added benefit that the SMS they receive at the point of sale lets them monitor exactly where and when their products are being sold, and check that product isn’t being diverted.

‘Patients should not feel that every time they buy an important item such as medicine they are gambling with their lives,’ says mPedigree founder and Ashoka fellow, Bright Simons, and their mission is to 'ensure and communicate the quality of all life-impacting products.’

Simons launched mPedigree as a non profit in 2007 but relisted as a corporate in 2009 in order to have credibility with big pharma partners such as SanofiAventis. ‘This is the first time that innovations from Africa are going to other parts of the world,’ he says. ‘It's demonstrating that Africa can be the source of groundbreaking innovations. This is a genuine reversal of the usual narrative.' 

Image 'Pills 1'  courtesy of e-Magine Art

Last updated: 09th of May, 2014

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