Texting technology fights drug counterfeiting in Africa

The World Health Organization estimates that a third of all pharmaceuticals sold in developing countries are fake. A UN report says the worldwide market for fake drugs has grown by 90 percent since 2005, to an estimated $75 billion this year. What could resource-poor countries do to stop the counterfeiting? "The only state-of-the-art infrastructure we have is our cellphone network," Ghana native and Dartmouth College graduate Ashifi Gogo tells the Reuters news agency.

Gogo had started a company, Sproxil, to employ mobile phones in organic farming, but by the time he had the technology ready in 2005, that industry had peaked. He instead took his plans to nearby Nigeria, which was losing its battle against drug counterfeiters. He found a champion in Nigeria's drug-safety agency, and worked with officials and a major Nigerian drug company to develop an anti-counterfeiting system.

Now, medication with Gogo's patented "Mobile Product Authentication" system comes with a scratch-off code on the packaging. Consumers enter the code into their phones and receive a text response verifying the authenticity of the product.

Gogo also is working to extend the technology to customs officers, helping to stop counterfeit medications from even entering the country. "We are essentially able to plug a lot of the holes in this leaking barrel that we have in several cash-based societies," Gogo says.

For more:
- take a look at this Reuters story