Cool Technology for Pharmacy – Sproxil

Counterfeit drugs are not only big business, they’re dangerous to consumers as well. Counterfeit medications have no quality assurance program, which means they can contain contaminants, sub-therapeutic levels of the active ingredient, the wrong active ingredient, or even no active ingredient at all. Thus they can cause more harm than good. While these medications can certainly cause problems here in the United States, it’s really the developing countries that are taking a beating.

According to a speech delivered by President Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative conference as much as 30% of medications in some developing countries are counterfeit, while in developed countries the number is less than 1%. Even 1% is too much when you consider the potential consequences.

Sproxil has developed an interesting concept that uses simple mobile technology, i.e. cell phones, to combat counterfeit medications. It’s relatively low tech compared to many other solutions such as mass serialization with RFID technology, chemical testing, surface mapping, etc, but it appears to be effective.

From the Sproxil website:

What do you do? »
We provide software and systems that capture market intelligence in emerging markets using cell phones.

Our service provides automatic protection against counterfeiters.

Why does it matter? »
Brand and product pirates in emerging markets pose a significant risk to legitimate manufacturers, leading to brand degradation, decrease in sales, consumer purchasing apprehension and exposure to lawsuits.

Over $500 billion in counterfeit products are traded yearly, depriving genuine businesses of significant revenue while compounding the job of government enforcement and regulatory bodies.

How does it work? »
As consumers purchase a product, they scratch & text a simple numeric code unique to the product, instantly receiving confirmation of authenticity. Brand owners can then:

* Send personalized real-time offers at the point of purchase.
* Lock down supply chains to prevent product diversion.
* Access live market intelligence in cash-based societies.

It’s more secure than holograms: the booming multi-billion dollar mobile phone market has been using this method for the last 15 years without any major flaws.

Basically the consumer uncovers a unique identification number on the medication label, shoots off a quick SMS message and gets an instant message back saying “OK” or “FAKE”. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. The service has shown promise in Nigeria and Kenya with over 1.6 million items using Sproxil’s unique ID number.

That’s pretty cool stuff.