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The fake drug detector app

October 17, 2018
tags:#Nigeria, #Drug abuse, #NAFDAC, #fake drugs
by:Bob Koigi
In Nigeria up to 4 per cent of all drugs in circulation are counterfeits according to the drug regulation agency, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC.

It is a menace that has seen the country destroy some $80 million worth of fake drugs between 2015 and 2017 with anti-malarial medication being among the most counterfeited due to their high demand. In June alone, the regulatory body destroyed fake drugs worth close to $10 million. The rot is equally pronounced in health institutions. One study found out that 41% of the pharmaceuticals were fake with another 70 % operating without licenses.

Industry players have christened this a ticking time bomb and called for urgent, holistic and innovative ways to tame this proliferation.

Now Team Save-a-Soul, a group of teenage girls have decided to do something about it. They have created a mobile-based application that detects fake drugs at the point of purchase. Known as FD Detector, Fake Drug Detector, the app allows health professionals and customers with a smartphone to scan the barcode in a drug. The app then indicates whether the drug is authentic or fake and also displays the drug’s expiry date. The innovation also has a provision for users to report any fake drugs directly to the regulator.

For 15-year old Jessica Osita one of the girls, coming up with the application was inspired by a personal experience after losing her brother who received fake drugs after he was involved in an accident.

The girls built the application from start using Opensource software. This, despite never having used a computer before or accessed the internet. Their mentor Uchenna Onwuamaegbu Ugwu who runs a programme to train girls from underprivileged backgrounds on science and technology put hours of work and energy in turning their dream into an innovation that has received international recognition.

The girls emerged winners in the junior division of the 2018 Technovation World Pitch Summit which is hailed as the world’s largest tech entrepreneurship program for girls. The competition involves girls of between 10 and 18 years who work in teams of one to five to come up with mobile-based applications that provide solutions to biting problems in their community. Save-a-Soul beat teams from China, Spain, US, and Turkey in a competition that attracted 2,000 applications in an event that was held in California and graced by top players in the global tech industry.

Judges praised the innovation for its power to address some of the biggest challenges in society while providing a platform for girls to make a contribution to the world of technology. "It is inspiring seeing the hard work and determination of girls around the world working to solve big challenges in their communities with smart solutions. World Pitch is not only an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of the nearly 100 girls advancing to the finals but it is also a chance to celebrate the 20,000 that are making technology solutions for social good,” said Tara Chklovski, CEO and founder of Iridescent the organization behind the pitches in a statement.

Now the girls are looking at scaling the innovation by partnering with NAFDAC to build a comprehensive database of all certified pharmaceutical companies and drugs. Anyone willing to sell or distribute drugs in Nigeria will need approval from the regulator. Once approved, their details are captured in the application making it easier for customers to determine the authenticity.

African countries remain the dumping ground for the world’s counterfeit drugs with over 40 per cent of all global fake drugs found on the continent. The World Health Organization estimates that 100,000 deaths occur each year in Africa as a result of counterfeit trade in medicine. Now industry players say innovation is the continent’s saving grace. “The transformative innovation by the Nigeria girls is a remarkable first step for the continent to arrest the proliferation of these harmful drugs that have not only cost our economies but also put millions of lives of our people at risk. It is impressive to see ordinary young minds championing this very noble call. Africa should leverage on its competitive edge which is found in its innovative youth,” said Dr Bramwell Otiende a lecturer at the University of Nairobi School of Medicine in Kenya.

Article written by:
Bob Koigi
Bob Koigi
Author, Contributing Editor
Embed from Getty Images
Anti-malarial medication being among the most counterfeited due to their high demand.
Embed from Getty Images
One study found out that 41 per cent of the pharmaceuticals were fake with another 70 per cent operating without licenses.
Embed from Getty Images
Team Save-a-Soul, a group of teenage girls have created a mobile based application that detects fake drugs at the point of purchase.
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