Nigeria takes on fake drugs with new tech

Nigeria is fast-tracking mobile authentication services in its fight against drug counterfeiters. Manufacturers will bear the brunt of the cost, at least initially.

The costal country of 150 million is at the forefront of African anti-counterfeiting efforts, thanks largely to a rampant supply of malaria drug fakes. In mid-May, the nonprofit mPedigree Network and computer giant HP launched an authentication trial in Nigeria and Ghana; Nigeria is also conducting tests with Merck using technology from Sproxil.  

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has mandated that all manufacturers of the products it regulates must begin providing the anti-counterfeiting technology beginning the first of this month. Director Paul Orhii told a meeting of Nigerian drug execs that although the new technology might affect the cost of drug production, gains outweigh the disadvantages. Manufacturers need to "own" the anti-counterfeiting project, he says in a local press report.

One such manufacturer-owner is Biofem Pharmaceuticals. CEO Femi Soremekun says at the meeting that his company implemented the mobile authentication technology in January with its diabetes drug, Glucophage and that "the success has been tremendous."

The technology relies on the user to initiate the drug authentication process. Consumers scratch a recharge card on the sachet of the drug, revealing a number that they then send via free text message (thanks to partner telecom providers). A text reply validates or invalidates the drug.

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