Irish involvement in system to detect counterfeit drugs


HEWLETT-PACKARD’S Irish operations have been instrumental in developing a new service, to be announced today, which targets counterfeit drugs.

HP and mPedigree Network, an African social enterprise, have introduced a service that allows people in Nigeria and Ghana to check if their malaria and other medication is authentic.

Patients taking a range of medications manufactured by May Baker Nigeria and the Kama Group of Ghana can send a free text message to get an instant response as to whether the tablets or syrup bottles are genuine.

Counterfeit drugs are a major problem in developing countries and the World Health Organisation estimates that they account for about 25 per cent of the drugs market there. Counterfeit drugs account for some 10 per cent of the global drugs market.

Counterfeit medicines often contain incorrect quantities of active pharmaceutical ingredients, which can result in illness or death. Use of counterfeit drugs is estimated to cause, at least, 700,000 deaths a year from malaria and tuberculosis.

The system from HP and mPedigree assigns a code that is revealed by scratching off a coating on the drugs’ packaging. This code can be texted by the consumer or medical professional to verify its authenticity.

If the drug packaging contains a counterfeit code, a message will be sent alerting the customer that the pack may be a fake. The customer will also be given a phone number to report the incident.

The service has been endorsed by the West African Health Organisation and is expected to be available for other medications and in more countries in the near future.

Mick Keyes, senior architect in HP’s chief technology office, said HP’s Dublin operation had created the intellectual property for the project while its cloud computing centre in Galway had developed the software for the service.

Irish communications company TR2 is involved in the text messaging element of the service.

Mr Keyes said the technology to identify counterfeit product had massive potential as it could be applied in other sectors, such as foods – baby food in particular – as well as toys and other consumer goods, such as handbags.

This service is funded by the participating pharmaceutical companies. May Baker Nigeria has begun supplying its pharmacists and clinics in Nigeria with medicines that are packaged with codes.