how ICT is fighting counterfeit medicines #OBL12

I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised at the ways Information Communication Technology (ICT) companies help out in unsuspecting places like the world of healthcare. The other week at Orange Business Live I attended a breakout session that zoomed on the problems related to counterfeit drugs, their consumers and legitimate pharmaceuticals. It spurred me to dig deeper and write this post. Hope you enjoy.

Consider this:

• 50% of today’s newborns have life expectancies of 100 years
• 4-5% of the world population will suffer from chronic disease within 10 years

We’re living longer and the curve will only continue to rise. How will we experience our golden years? Probably using medicine. But if we want to reach our full potential, maintaining vitality so we can enjoy the grandkids and great-grandkids, we must be certain our medicines are safe.

I’ve read that fake drugs can contain dangerous substances like anti-freeze liquids. Sometimes they kill people. They’re even seeping into highly regulated countries like the United States, with a 2012 example of “fake cancer medicines [that] had been shipped to American oncologists from foreign sources,” says John J. Castellani, president and CEO of the Pharmeceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Castellani explains that the fraud skills level is high: “If you ask any one of our company security experts on the front line in the war against counterfeit medicine crimes, they will tell you that international criminal networks have become extremely sophisticated in replicating—almost to a T—not only the color, shape and size of a particular medicine, but also the labeling and packaging that is used to ship the treatments.”

The World Health Organization says that in developing countries we’re talking about a whopping 30% of fake drugs. This is a big deal and will only amplify as criminals try to obtain more slices of aging-population-economy-pie.

Until an international treaty against counterfeit medicines comes into play, we can help fight the fake drug market with mobile technology.

Orange Business has partnered with mPedigree to do exactly that in Africa. It’s targeted at patients buying medicine in local pharmacies and works with a simple and smart verification scratch-off code and SMS verification system. Here’s how it works:

  1. patient buys drug from pharmacy
  2. drug packaging includes a scratchable surface layer under which a unique verification code is printed
  3. patient sends the code via SMS for free to a dedicated service number
  4. service answers patient via SMS with drug details: is the medicine legitimate or not, plus a few other helpful items
  5. voilà, the patient knows whether it’s safe to take the medicine or not.

You may enjoy this video that gives more information.

healthcare in Kenya : the fight against medicine... by orangebusiness

So, are you delightfully surprised at what ICT is doing for healthcare? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ICT-healthcare wish lists.

Digitally yours,

Kate Bourdet

Hi, I'm heading up external digital comms for Orange Business.  Human-centered is my approach, and I hope this shines through in the blog content you read chez nous.  Looking forward to connecting with you in the comments section or @KateBo.