This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (copyright 2015--it will be out soon), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Hey Dude, Is That Drug For Real?

On top of the already high health risks among residents of Africa, fake or substandard medications may be responsible for as many as 700,000 deaths each year from malaria and tuberculosis, according to reports from the Associated Press.
Across the continent, more than 30 percent of malaria medicines are estimated to be fake, and many look identical to the real thing...Previous studies from agencies including the World Health Organization have shown about 30 to 60 percent of medicines in Africa are counterfeit or substandard.
A very clever invention by a Ghanaian entrepreneur may help solve the problem:

Ghanaian entrepreneur Bright Simons developed the mPedigree system; its technology and security infrastructure is now being provided by Hewlett Packard. The system assigns a unique code to genuine malaria medicines, printed on the back of medicine blister packs under a sheet that is scratched off like a lottery ticket.

Customers send a text message to a central hot line with the code and instantly get an "OK" response telling them if the drug is registered and thus real. It also sends them additional information like the drug's manufacturer and expiration date.

If the drug isn't registered and potentially fake, people receive a text message that says "No. Please recheck code." The system is free for consumers and is paid for by pharmaceutical companies and governments.

This is all made possible by the genuinely explosive growth in cell phone use Africa, helping to transform the way people think about the world and, in the case of texting for drugs, improving their ability to stay alive.


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