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AP Reports On Efforts To Monitor Authenticity Of Antimalarials, Other Drugs In Africa

The Associated Press reports on a recent effort to use text messages to track the authenticity of antimalarials in Africa, where “more than 30 percent of malaria medicines are estimated to be fake.”

The project, known as mPedigree, “assigns a unique code to genuine malaria medicines, printed on the back of medicine blister packs” that consumers can then text to a “central hotline” to verify the quality of the drugs, the news service writes. The central hotline can tell the consumer if the drug is registered and, if so, when it expires. “Ghanaian entrepreneur Bright Simons developed the mPedigree system; its technology and security infrastructure is now being provided by Hewlett Packard,” the news service adds. According to the AP, the service is free to consumers, with pharmaceutical companies and governments footing the bill.

“Health officials say the innovative system could help Africa curb the tide of fake drugs and potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives. Experts think about 700,000 people die from malaria or tuberculosis every year after taking counterfeit drugs, with some containing little more than sawdust, baby powder and water,” the news service writes. “In addition, fake medicines speed up drug resistance. If a drug contains some but not enough of the active ingredient, it won’t kill the disease’s virus or bacteria, but gives it a chance to mutate into a deadlier form instead,” the AP continues.

The program “was recently adopted in Nigeria, with plans for wider use elsewhere in Africa. Last month, the Nigerian government decided to introduce the technology for all medicines in the future, not just anti-malarials,” the AP adds.

The article notes that Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda along with Nigeria have carried out small trials of the text messaging system so far and additional African countries such as Tanzania and Uganda have also expressed interest in the technology. The piece includes comments by Julian Harris, a research fellow at International Policy Network, and Paul Orhii, director-general of Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (Cheng, 8/20).

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