I had been hearing about this "Mobile Authentication Service via the Lonart (an anti-malarial drug) radio advert for some time and I thought it was just another fad. But my thoughts changed when I recently purchased a blister pack of Nizoral tablets and I saw a paper attached to it. The paper had some instructions to scratch a panel to reveal a PIN. I wondered why a drug company would be doing a promotion. This was unusual. But then I remembered the Lonart radio advert and wondered if it was the same service being offered here. Curiously, I scratched the foil-like panel to reveal a 12-digit code. The instruction stated that I should send the code to 38353 for free. At first, my Nigerian instinct kicked in, who would be offering this for free? How will they recover their cost? Well, my curiosity overcame my doubt and I said to myself, "At least, it won't be more than 200 Naira. I can live with that". I sent the code and got the following message
"OK. Original Nizoral Tablets 200mg
Nizoral can stop acne and ringworm
Problem? Call 08039012929
NAFDAC & Janssen Care
SMS by Sproxil."It was real. I was happy that some company actually thought of this to fight the incidence of fake drugs in Nigeria. Next step was to google "Sproxil." Lo and behold, I was amazed that there was a company like this and it was actually behind the "Mobile Authentication Service." The MAS technology is supplied by Sproxil Inc, a US-headquartered company which grew out of a technology platform developed by mPedigree, a Ghanaian company set up by entrepreneurs Bright Simons and Ashifi Gogo. MAS is a free service, so patients can use any mobile phone to check the status of their medication. Sproxil designed this technology specifically for emerging markets. Using any cell phone, customers can text message an item-unique code and get an instant response confirming your brand's genuineness. Browsing through the web, I found out that Nigeria's National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) launched this service in conjunction with Sproxil on the 1st of February 2010.
I must confess that it is a wonderful innovation aimed at combating the menace of fake drugs and I do commend it. However, I do wonder how many Nigerians know about this initiative and how many drugs this MAS technology is being applied to.