Challenge #4: Data & Mobile – Ashifi Gogo, CEO of Sproxil
This Q&A is part of our Solve for M: Five Challenges for Ending Malaria series. Challenge 4 (link to post) looks at ways technology and data can be used to fight malaria. Ashifi Gogo is the head of Sproxil, a company that uses mobile phone technology to combat dangerous counterfeit malaria medication.
1) Many people aren’t aware of the major threat counterfeit drugs pose, can you briefly describe the problem and how mobile authentication, such as Sproxil, helps fight it?
Drug counterfeiting, while particularly prevalent in emerging markets, is a global disease that threatens the safety and well-being of all citizens. 700,000 people die every year from fake anti-malarial and tuberculosis drugs alone: it is the equivalent of the entire population of Boston disappearing in a single year.
By leveraging the increasing popularity of mobile phones, we developed a simple, but powerful and secure SMS system: Mobile Product Authentication™ (MPA™). We partner directly with manufacturers and distributors to append security labels with a scratch-off panel on each product. At point of sale, a consumer will scratch off the panel to reveal a unique, single use code that they SMS to our phone number for free. The consumer instantly receives a response back confirming that the product is genuine or warning that it is suspicious. Our 24/7 help desk, which supports major local languages, is available for reports of counterfeiting activity and for questions relating to the product or solution.
To further reduce access barriers, we have multiple channels for verification: mobile apps (available on iPhone, Android, and Blackberry 7), web apps and our help desk.
2) You’re working to integrate Sproxil into more countries. Where do you provide service currently, and where do you plan to expand?
We have operations in Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, and the U.S. and can execute projects on six major continents. In an effort to stay ahead of counterfeiters, we do not disclose our plans for expansion.
3) Beyond preventing counterfeits, do you see other ways to leverage this data to improve health?
Our technology was developed to be flexible and scalable. By creating direct communication channels between our clients and their patients, MPA can help foster healthier lifestyles. Our technology can support medical adherence programs, message patients with expiration reminders and health and wellness information or connect them with health care providers or other experts and even send special coupons or recommendations for other wellness products. The opportunities for improving health by connecting patients with the appropriate resources make the possibilities limitless.