Africa: mPedigree Empowers Consumers

The mPedigree Network was established to end corruption and the trafficking of counterfeit medicine in addition to empowering consumers with information to make good decisions. (Ustr.gov)

by Nsenga K. Burton

In an Op-Ed for AllAfrica.com, Bright B. Simons discusses the development of mPedigree Network, a network that connects principal telecom operators in Africa, leading pharmaceutical industry associations in Africa and Fortune 500 technology powerhouses in empowering African patients and consumers to protect themselves from the fatal effects of pharmaceutical counterfeiting.  Approximately 25 percent of the total trade of pharmaceuticals in Africa are counterfeit. Add that figure the inability to track medicines through supply chains, thefts, diversions, corruption, trafficking and the widespread abuse of medicine, and significant problem that has to be addressed emerges.

According to the mPedigree website, counterfeit medicine kills nearly a million people a year, and maims countless more, in vulnerable parts of the world. mPedigree was developed to solve problems of corruption, trafficking and abuse while empowering consumers in the process. Simons, who is president of the mPedigree Network writes:

Our approach was simple: build software tools and create partnerships that will enable pharma companies to tag each individual pack of medicine with a unique ID that the patient can text-message to a special hotline for an instant response about the medicine’s authenticity and latest status.

Given the extraordinary limited resources we had at our disposal (by this time, even the small team we began with had shrunk further), it was not until 2007 that, having now relocated from Europe to Ghana, we were able to launch the world’s first, free, multi-country shortcode to address a social problem that is genuinely global in scale and character. Until we showed up, no such uniform toll-free SMS hotline across national borders had ever been attempted.

It is quite remarkable then that 5 years after our first public pilot we are now expanding beyond Africa to South Asia. For the first time, an African innovation is being aggressively imitated worldwide, with copycats being reported in the specialised press monthly.

Through our pioneering advocacy and lobbying efforts, two countries in Africa – Nigeria and Kenya – with more poised to follow, have integrated mobile telephony based consumer verification into their safety regulations, and in the case of Nigeria made it mandatory for malaria medicines.

Bright B. Simons is president of the mPedigree Network.

Read the full Op-Ed at AllAfrica.com.

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