Orange Kenya has partnered with mPedigree to help patients detect counterfeit drugs by sending a text message. Similarly, Sproxil has begun offering its short code text messaging product verification service in Kenya.
Manufacturers have already raised concerns though. Speaking at the Orange press conference, Palu Dhanani, managing director of UCL, said: “A major problem will be the cost related to [labelling]. If some sort of subsidised pricing can be done it can really help patients.”
Entering Kenya builds on the work Sproxil has done in Nigeria and gives it a base for expansion in East Africa. Patients in Kenya can send codes found on pharmaceutical packaging via text message, to the same number used in Nigeria, to get confirmation of a product’s authenticity.
“Because the short code is the same across both countries, Sproxil’s cloud-based technology can easily detect illegally diverted products across the two countries”, Rick Tucker, software architect at Sproxil, said.
Sproxil is working with telecommunication network Safaricom to offer the service. Tucker said the connection between Safaricom and Sproxil is “heavily-encrypted” for security.
Orange also wants to enter the anti-counterfeiting market. In April Orange formed an agreement with mPedigree and detailed plans to use the technology to fight fakes in Kenya and Cameroon.
East Africa fights back
Working with technology providers is part of Kenyan efforts to fight back against counterfeit drugs. AllAfrica.com reports the East African Community (EAC), of which Kenya is a member, is pushing for common anti-counterfeiting laws across the region.
“To effectively free ourselves from counterfeits, we have to strengthen our action plans regarding international quality control benchmarks, intellectual property rights, veterinary and public health standards”, David Nalo, EAC Affairs permanent secretary, said.
Sampling by the Kenyan Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) and National Quality Control Laboratories (NQCL) in 2005 found almost three in every 10 drugs in Kenya to be counterfeit. Products marketed as legitimate pharmaceuticals were just chalk or water.