Economy

Is the drug fake? SMS and get a reply

Bangalore | Updated on June 21, 2011

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As domestic drug makers grapple with fakes of their generic exports spoiling their global gameplan, US company Sproxil has landed with a mobile-based solution.

It arrives with a $1.8-million prop from Acumen Fund to begin its operations in the country — where the victim or supplier industry is; and Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in eastern Africa — where pirating of some of top-selling imported Indian medicine is rampant.

Sproxil Inc's CEO, Dr Ashifi Gogo, said their mobile product authentication software was meant for pharma companies. Users of the drug texted the unique code number on the packet to the manufacturer as a free SMS and got a reply with an ‘OK' assurance.

It has already won two clients, he said at a news conference on Tuesday. “India forms an integral part of Sproxil's global strategy, and we are launching in [services hub] Bangalore and [pharma industry hub] Mumbai, as more than 80 per cent of [domestic] pharmaceutical manufacturers are based in the West and the South.” It would not raise the drug price for the consumer, he said.

With the drug industry mandated to adopt barcoding by July to enable tracking and tracing of its products, Dr Gogo said, “We are ready for integrating [MPA] with barcoding.”

Nigeria, Ghana and western Africa import 70 per cent of its medicine; India followed by China holds a major share of that market. Dr Gogo told Business Line Sproxil was looking at several dozen products from India to come into its list. By fighting counterfeits, pharma companies would safeguard their topline. The country's surging mobile user base of 81crore would help curb the fake drugs scene, he said.

The service was launched in Africa in 2010. “In the first 100 days of launch, there was 10 per cent sales rise of the genuine products of the first client,” he said. It had since sold millions of anti-counterfeit labels for a dozen MNC products that include GSK's antibiotic; Merck's anti-diabetic and Johnson & Johnson's anti-fungal.

In recent years, the image and revenue of the country's Rs 45,000-crore drug exporting industry had taken a beating as fake drugs, particularly those to treat TB and malaria, were sold as Indian brands.

Fakes for just these two therapies were estimated to cause seven lakh deaths a year globally. The World Customs Organisation, he said, had estimated drug counterfeits at $200 billion globally.

Sproxil would next globally launch an interface that would enable legitimate manufacturers to remind patients by text that it was time to take their medicine. Patient adherence, he said, was a problem in fighting diseases.

Published on June 21, 2011

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