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West African conference to eradicate counterfeits

By Nick Taylor , 24-Jul-2008

West African states are meeting to devise a plan for cleaning up their tarnished reputations with regards to the flow of counterfeit pharmaceuticals in the region.

The meeting is taking place in Accra, Ghana with the nation's president, John Kufuor, hoping the congress will mark the start of a period of change for the region.

In addition to concerns over the potentially harmful effects of counterfeit medicines those at the meeting believe that through failing to protect intellectual property they are putting off pharmaceutical manufacturers from setting up in the region.

Kufuor said: "The national effort is necessary not only to clean our markets of these spurious products but also to compliment international efforts being spearheaded at various fronts by the World Health Organisation (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the International Trademark Association (INTA), among others.

"My government believes in the fact that sustained socio-economic development depends on inward investment and the growth of local industries, entrepreneurs and innovators willing to invest the capital needed to create brands and copyrights."

Ghana in particular is making concerted efforts to creating an environment in which a technological economy can evolve. Cleansing the nation of its counterfeit problem to make it more attractive to pharmaceutical companies forms part of this effort but other tenets of the plan are also being put into action.

The Ghanaian government is strongly pushing technological innovation, believing it is the best way to achieve the goal of making the nation a middle-income country by 2015.

A company combining the Ghanaian governments' desire to eradicate counterfeits and see technological innovation blossom in the nation is mPedigree.

The company has developed an anti-counterfeiting system that uses scratch off labels that contain codes. These codes can be sent via text message to a central database that will verify where the drug was made, distributed and sold.

Trials have begun in Ghana, with mPedigree hoping to establish the system in all 48 sub-Saharan African states within 10 years. Looking further ahead the company has ambitions of spreading its technology beyond the region and into other emerging markets.

The Ghanaian government is trying to foster this ambitious nature and spirit of technological innovation in companies across the nation to drive on growth.

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