Health News of Monday, 3 September 2012
There has been a surge of interest in the subject of counterfeit medicines lately, judging by media reportage. Some reports have focussed on the growing acceptance of technological tools such as mobile phones in the detection and avoidance of fake and counterfeit medicines. What is exciting is that these technologies now increasingly target patients and consumers directly.
As many of you are aware, mPedigree Network (www.mpedigree.net) is the *pioneer in this field*, with a footprint that now spans Africa. We should be happy to see the growing credibility of an approach that just a few years ago was completely unknown to the pharmaceutical industry in many parts of the world. We should also be happy about the recognition that is being accorded the role some of our colleagues have played in the invention and actual implementation of such solutions with *highly limited resources in some of the most infrastructurally challenged regions*.
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We are however more focussed than ever on the *challenges* of transforming the respect the technology is receiving into actual impact in terms of lives saved.
We see a massive *opportunity* in the recent consensus reached by the medicine safety regulators in Nigeria and the pharmaceutical industry to jointly promote the use of mobile phone technologies in securing *every single pack of malaria medication sold in Nigeria from 2012 onwards*. mPedigree Network is also expanding its service in Nigeria to take advantage of the evolving situation, and have more recently extended protection from capsules and tablets to injectables.
This is no doubt a very dramatic development. *Think about it*. If it all goes well, this will mean every single pack of anti-malarial will be tracked using computer networking technologies through the distribution and supply chain all the way to the consumer!
The choice of anti-malarials as the launch pad for this transformative exercise is highly instructive. Malaria remains the biggest impediment to the attaining of many health outcomes in the developing world. *Four thousand people die daily* as a result of malaria infection. That is about 3 every minute. Even more tragically, the MAJORITY of all those who die are children under the age of 5 in Africa. Imagine the degree to which this problem has been compounded by the widespread counterfeiting of malaria medications in exactly those areas where the problem is most chronic.
There are several *obstacles* in the way of protecting all anti-malaria medicines and other life-saving medicines in Africa. Recent quality surveys still pegged the quantity of substandard and *fake* malaria medicines circulating in various countries at *more than 50% of supply *in many countries surveyed. In some countries like Nigeria, regulatory authorities and industry associations have taken the vanguard position in the fight to address this. In others, such as many East African countries, Ministries of Health are leading the charge. In Ghana and most West African countries, on the other hand, professional bodies and health associations tend to be the drivers. The optimal situation however is one in which all stakeholders come on board with equal enthusiasm.
Manufacturers and other players in major exporting countries like *India*and *China* will also have to embrace the campaign. We are delighted that respected companies such as Themis Medicare and ACI *are already working with us* towards the goal of helping limit the circulation of fake anti-malarials and other therapies in Africa. Equally critical is the growing role of technology providers such as Hewlett Packard and the telecom industry, who are now complete partners, and not just suppliers, in the delivery of the solution and the education of end-users.
We hope we can continue to count on your moral support as the campaign intensifies in coming months and years.