Sproxil, a company which provides SMS based technology to combat counterfeiting of pharmaceutical products along the entire supply chain, which we first covered in November 2009, has grown significantly since then and its pace of growth is increasing.
In February 2010, the Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in partnership with a pharmaceutical company, BIOFEM, adopted Sproxil’s technology for its Mobile Authentication Service (MAS) to fight fake drugs. MAS allows anyone in Nigeria to check the authenticity of their medication with a simple text message using a scratch panel similar to those on mobile top-up cards.
Consumers simply scratch & text the unique numbers on the scratch card to a shortcode and receive an SMS reply confirming the authenticity or otherwise of the product. There are two very important aspects to MAS, it happens at the point of sale and it is free for consumers. Fake drugs are reported to NAFDAC via a hotline number. Backend analytics also help both NAFDAC and the pharmaceutical companies like BIOFEM identify regions of high counterfeiting activity. MAS also ensure the staff of NAFDAC are not overwhelmed by the sheer volume of counterfeiting activity.
Results from the pilot program (NAFDAC, BIOFEM, Sproxil) based on Glucophage, a diabetes drug from Merck, imported, distributed and marketed by BIOFEM Pharmaceuticals, shows the technology is working. Here is a defining quote from the case study published of the pilot project.
Since 2008, Glucophage sales had fallen by 75%, “more or less the main reason being counterfeit drugs,” according to Merck spokesperson Gangolf Schrimpf. After just 100 days of using Sproxil’s solution, Glucophage sales in Nigeria increased by over 10%.
Recently, Sproxil also got an investment of $1.8 million dollars to expand into Kenya and India and also increase their sales teams in Nigeria, from the Acumen Fund. Here is a snippet from the Press Release.
Acumen Fund, a nonprofit global venture fund addressing poverty in South Asia and East Africa, today announced an investment in Sproxil, Inc., a company that provides a Mobile Product Authentication™ (MPA™) solution that enables consumers to verify that the pharmaceutical product they are buying is genuine. The $1.8 million investment aims to help Sproxil to build its sales teams in the U.S. and Nigeria; to begin Sproxil’s expansion into India and Kenya; and to provide further improvements to the technology.
All this activity did not go unnoticed from the media and CNN Marketplace Africa, a program on CNN that focuses on business in Africa showcased the technology at work in Nigeria and also interviewed the Ghanaian CEO of Sproxil, Ashifi Googo.
The only downside to all this really postive news from Sproxil is that Ghana’s only mention in the CNN story was that almost 70% of drugs here are fake but we have not adopted the technology. That’s another story, for another day. Congrats to Sproxil!