Fight the fakes: how to beat the $200bn medication counterfeiters


When the teenage boy changes into status in front of Bernice Bornman, feverish and delirious, it becomes too past due. It wasn’t simply malaria that began killing the 17-12 months old; it became the time he’d wasted taking fake medicine. The antimalarials did not stop the disease from marching through the younger Ghanaian’s frame: his organs were already shutting down. “He died ready to be taken to a bigger coaching health facility for dialysis,” Dr. Bornmai instructed the Guardian from the small hospital in Accra, wherein she works as a senior scientific officer. “It becomes certainly one of my saddest instances. However, I have misplaced other sufferers who could have survived due to fake drug treatments.”

It’s now not just ineffective malaria medication that may prove fatal. Bornman’s sufferers have now and again taken counterfeit antibiotics that no longer combat the infection but also grow bacterial resistance to powerful drugs. “Sometimes I simply throw up my fingers once I see the consequences displaying which antibiotics have a hazard of operating – regularly they will be not effectively available or too pricey,” the health practitioner says. “It makes my paintings frustrating, and it approaches patients ought to live here longer while I check out.”

When it involves seeking to stop faux drugs from getting into the palms of ill patients, professionals describe a tough project where they’re continuously striving to stay one step ahead of counterfeiters. Law enforcement and regulation are needed, sturdy pharmaceutical law requires to be in the location, and properly skilled healthcare experts are important, explains Cynthia Genolet, an Africa policy professional at the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers. “You can’t change the consciousness on one precise measurement to achieve success in this fight – it has to be a holistic effort,” she says.


Genet is a member of Fight the Fakes, a campaign launched in 2010 to raise the hassle among pharmacists and enterprises. One device campaigners wish will have an impact is harnessing rising technology such as blockchain and artificial intelligence that can help deal with the complexity of the task. A handful of new startups are focusing on tracing medications on blockchain-type technology and arming purc andinstant records about what they’ve sold.

The Nigerian begin-up RxAll, for instance, has created a handheld scanner that could investigate the compound of a drug in actual time. The device connects to a cloud-primarily based database of facts about what the medicine ought to contain, which feeds returned records. “The facts gathered is a spectral signature of the drug, and once checked, the database sends lower back information to an app to your telephone,” explains Adebayo Alonge, one of the co-founders. The sizeable information database has updated the use of a synthetic intelligence algorithm.

“The app additionally indicates you the opposite parts of your town that the drug has been tested in, that means you could see in which bad patches and horrific suppliers are,” says Alonge. Alonge and his colleagues released Rexall in October and rolled it out in international locations, including Ghana, Cambodia, and Kenya. It has been used commercially in Myanmar and offered to a huge Nigerian coaching hospital and to Nigeria’s National Agency for Food & Drug Administration and Control, whose officials have started training to use it.

It’s a personal reason for Alonge, who almost died at the age of 15 after taking what grew to become faux Ventolin for his allergies. The poisonous capsules put him in a coma for 21 days, and it took six months for him to get better completely. That experience encouraged him to educate as a pharmacist himself earlier than starting Rexall. Similarly, Raja Sharif, the United Kingdom-based statistics business enterprise FarmaTrust, was additionally stimulated via non-public experience. He discovered the hassle after discovering a relative had taken faux medicines.

FarmaTrust gives a manner to hint information about medication shifting via the delivery chain on blockchain, an era created for purchasing and selling bitcoin without going through a server belonging to a financial institution or government would be hacked.

Sharif explains: “The difficulty with faux drug treatments is that they usually input the center of the supply chain, not at the top at the point of producing, and the beneficial component of blockchain is that it creates an incorruptible file; after you’ve made a file, you may make it again or regulate it.”

Another advantage of this generation, he says, is that facts can be shared between pharmaceutical corporations about what goes on in their delivery chains on a want-to-understand basis. As they’re siloed and competing with each other, crucial data that might root out fakes won’t be shared.

Oksana Pyzik, a senior lecturer at UCL’s School of Pharmacy and Fight the Fakes campaigner, says blockchain appears although it can become an effective device. “I think based on the truth, the FDA is already piloting blockchain within the pharma supply chain within the US, shows it’s a manner ahead to get the best pleasant music and hint, and the cost is not as prohibitive as it was once,” says Pyzik, who organized a panel on the subject of generation and pretend drug treatments on the WHO’s most latest annual health meeting in May. “Technology alone isn’t always sufficient, but it’s a very effective device. But we additionally still need to speak about human behavior and corruption,” Pyzik provides.