Counterfeit products have had a significant impact on Nigeria, with diethylene glycol substitution being linked to the deaths of 84 children last year, leading to increasing efforts to tackle the problem.
The Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC) has been particularly vocal in its opposition to counterfeit drugs and has now partnered with Biofem to launch a technological solution.
Using technology from Sproxil, Biofem and NAFDAC have launched the MAS pilot programme. Packaging of drugs included in the programme will include a scratch card with six labels, each of which hides a code.
Patients should send these codes for free by SMS text message to 38353. Shortly after sending the message, often within one minute according to NAFDAC, the patient will receive a reply stating if the medicine is genuine or fake.
Currently the scratch cards are only included with packs of Glucophage (metformin) but NAFDAC is working with the pharma industry and health stakeholders to expand the service. The goal is to implement MAS for all drugs at risk of counterfeiting.
Patients seeking to authenticate their Glucophage will also receive a tip for managing diabetes with each validation message. This is intended to keep patients informed of “the latest discoveries in diabetes care management”.
The system runs on Spoxil’s MAS technology. This is based on asymmetric encryption, which also underpins bank transfers and e-commerce. Consequently, NAFDAC is confident that if users send their message to the correct number they will receive a genuine reply.
To accommodate patients without mobile phones NAFDAC has made it free to send the confirmatory text message. This allows users to borrow a mobile phone from someone else, for instance the pharmacist.