Brian Thompson, ICT Africa
July 8, 2013
It takes some technical know-how, a piece of chalk or some starch to create imitation drugs that do not have any active ingredients to treat a patient. When skilfully done, it is impossible to visually distinguish between a real drug and a counterfeit one. Some counterfeit drugs may contain the same active ingredients as the real drugs, but not enough to be effective. Perhaps the most harmful form of a counterfeit drug is one that contains the wrong active ingredients.
The counterfeit drug trade is a billion-dollar industry and the number one market is Africa where unsuspecting patients are lured by the relatively low cost of the drugs. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports 100,000 deaths a year in Africa as a result of counterfeit drugs.
So far most attempts at curbing counterfeit drugs in Africa have not been fruitful. In Nigeria, the authorities are turning to ICT as a more effective weapon to fight counterfeit drugs. There have introduced Mobile Authentication Service (MAS). If adopted widely in Africa, this technology has the capacity to destroy the trade and save some lives.
The MAS technology was developed by an African entrepreneur, Ghanaian born Ashifi Gogo, to combat the evil trade of counterfeit trade. While there are other technologies available for combating counterfeit drugs, such as Black Eye, Radio Frequency and TRUSCAN, MAS is gaining more prominence in Africa because of its ability to have entire drug using population involved.
In MAS, all authentic drugs will carry a hidden identification code on the packaging. After purchasing the drugs, the buyer scratches off a section of the packaging to expose the code. They then send an SMS text to a number provided, 38353 in the case of Nigeria, with the ID. A response is instantly received telling the buyer whether the dugs are authentic or counterfeit.