Pan-African operator backs drug authentication service - Mobile World Live

Pan-African operator backs drug authentication service

28 AUG 2012

Bharti Airtel, the mobile operator with operations in 17 African countries, plans to offer an SMS-based service that enables its subscribers to check whether pharmaceutical products are genuine, following the announcement of a partnership with Sproxil, a firm that specialises in a drug authentication service. Deployment across the group will be in stages with an initial launch planned before the end of 2012.

Sproxil labels drugs with a scratch-off code which users reveal and then send via SMS short code to the company which verifies by return SMS if the code (and hence the drug) is authentic or not. Some shops offer a mobile handset to consumers so they can check products.

The service is free to subscribers as usually the service is funded by the pharmaceutical firm, their distributors or local agent.  Airtel and Sproxil are currently in discussion with pharma firms who might want to be their partners for the launch.

Concerns over piracy means authenticating drugs could  tap into significant demand. Other firms competing with Sproxil by offering similar services including mPedigree and Pharmasecure. Orange struck an agreement in 2011 with mPedigree to offer its service in Kenya and Cameroon.

 The 17 African countries where Airtel has operations include Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. Working with a multi-country operator such as Airtel streamlines the process of acquiring short codes for Sproxil.

Nigeria is one of the markets where Sproxil has previously launched its service. It worked with Airtel as well as other cellular operators including MTN, Glo and Etisalat.

When Airtel launched a mobile health advice service earlier this year, it said a pan-African drug authentication service was also part of its plans. Also on its agenda is a medical helpline so that users can call medical professionals for advice.

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Richard Handford

Richard is the editor of Mobile World Live’s money channel and a contributor to the daily news service. He is an experienced technology and business journalist who previously worked as a freelancer for many publications over the last decade including...

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