Counterfeit drugs: 'People are dying every day'

Imagine seeing your child suffering from malaria, one of the biggest killers of children across the world. Symptoms include high fever, sweating, vomiting and convulsions.
But it's OK, you think, because you bought medicine to combat the disease from a local drugs market.
Now imagine what it must be like to see your child die nonetheless because the drugs you bought were fake.
That is the brutal reality of the multi-billion dollar a year global trade in counterfeit drugs.
More than 120,000 people a year die in Africa as a result of fake anti-malarial drugs alone, says the World Health Organization, either because the drugs were substandard or simply contained no active ingredients at all.
Even medicines that are substandard - containing an insufficient dosage of active ingredients, say - can be deadly, leading to drug resistance, a particular issue for infectious diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.
By some estimates, about a third of all anti-malarial drugs in sub-Saharan Africa are fake. And these fakes can find their way into pharmacies, clinics and street vendor stalls, or be sold online via thousands of unregulated websites.
But a handful of start-ups have been trying to tackle the issue using technology.

'Simple and cheap'

One tech firm, Sproxil, offers a beguilingly simply solution.
Participating drugs companies apply for scratch-panel stickers that can be attached to their packets of drugs. Customers scratch off the panel to reveal a code which they text to Sproxil. The company checks the code against its database of genuine drugs and texts back a confirmation of authenticity.
Buyers can also scan the barcode or simply ring a call centre staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week to verify that the drugs are genuine. And Sproxil has introduced incentives for consumers to use the service, such as mobile phone air time rewards.
More than 70 drugs companies have signed up to the service, including multinationals such as GlaxoSmitKline and Novartis, says Sproxil spokesman Tolulope Gbamolayun, and about 28 million verifications have taken place globally since the scheme was launched in 2009.
It's a security measure that is simple and cheap," says Mr Gbamolayun.
In Africa, the scheme operates in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and most recently, Mali.
"But we're trying to spread our tentacles across all the countries of Africa," he says.

Catching the fraudsters

Social entrepreneur Bright Simons set up a similar "verify-by-mobile" system called mPedigree Network nearly 10 years ago.
Printed barcodes and scratch-off stickers, developed in partnership with US tech giant Hewlett-Packard, help consumers check authenticity against a central database.

Counterfeit drugs: 'People are dying every day' Counterfeit drugs: 'People are dying every day' Reviewed by True NewsBlog on Monday, October 03, 2016 Rating: 5

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