IBM Helps Sproxil Reduce Counterfeit Drugs in Developing Countries

IBM announced a partnership with Sproxil, a maker of verification solutions, to help reduce drug counterfeiting in developing countries by using a cloud-based solution accessed via mobile phones.

LAS VEGAS €” IBM announced that Sproxil, a provider of verification services, is using IBM technology to help the pharmaceutical industry reduce drug counterfeiting and enable consumers to verify the authenticity of prescriptions in seconds using their mobile phones.

Using IBM visualization, analytics and cloud capabilities, Sproxil helps pharmaceutical manufacturers view and analyze real-time consumer data to detect and prevent drug counterfeiting in developing countries, where upward of 25 to 50 percent of medicines can be counterfeit, costing the industry $75 billion a year€”and worse yet, possibly costing lives.

Sproxil uses IBM€™s cloud service to provide users with secure, reliable data access, the company said in announcing its partnership with Big Blue at the IBM Impact 2012 conference here May 1.

Sproxil€™s pharmaceutical clients, including Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, have been able to fight counterfeiting by using Sproxil€™s Mobile Product Authentication (MPA) solution to affix a scratch-off label with a unique code to each package of medication. Then, upon purchase, consumers scratch the label to reveal the code, which they then send via a free text message to a telephone number provided on the package. Within seconds, consumers receive a text message from Sproxil letting them know if the medication is authentic.

As part of the process, Sproxil€™s MPA solution produces a large, rapidly flowing stream of information about pharmaceutical sales and suspected incidences of counterfeiting that pharmaceutical manufacturers have access to through Sproxil€™s client portal.

However, to make it easier for users to view and analyze this market data, Sproxil tapped IBM€™s ILOG Elixir software, which provides visuals such as advanced charts and graphics. Using these and other new capabilities, pharmaceutical manufacturers can better manage and analyze petabytes of transaction data in real time, IBM said. Thus the pharmaceutical companies can more easily identify counterfeiting patterns and combat it. Sproxil€™s new portal featuring ILOG will be launched during the second quarter of 2012, IBM said.

€œMany of our clients are in locations where high-speed Internet connectivity is unreliable or nonexistent, said Sproxil CEO Dr. Ashifi Gogo, in a statement. €œThrough our work with IBM, we can enable our clients to render charts with high-speed, even in low-bandwidth situations. Through IBM€™s cloud service, we are also able to offer our clients secure and reliable application availability no matter where they are located.€

€œSproxil continues to advance its MPA solution to make it easier for us to successfully prevent consumers from being subjected to counterfeit medications,€ said Chokri Ahmadi, business director for Merck Group€™s West Africa Region, in a statement. €œThe new dashboard will allow us to make better use of the data we receive through the client portal, which in turn should help our business and customers.€

IBM said counterfeit medicines have become a critical issue for developing nations, with an impact measured in lives. For example, IBM reports that of the 1 million malaria deaths that occur worldwide each year, 200,000 are the result of counterfeit anti-malarial drugs. Additionally, the World Health Organization reports that 700,000 Africans die each year from fake anti-malarial and tuberculosis drugs.

Sproxil and IBM share a commitment to using technology to protect the health and safety of people around the world,€ said Paul Chang, supply chain solutions leader for IBM, in a statement. €œWith the help of IBM, Sproxil and its clients are making prescription drugs safer for millions of people who live in areas where counterfeiting is rampant.€

Using IBM SmartCloud, Sproxil is benefiting from the cost savings and scalability associated with the cloud environment while also enjoying the security, reliability, management and support of a private cloud environment, the company said.

€œOverwhelmingly, we€™re seeing clients looking at private cloud environments as their initial entry into the cloud space,€ Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of IBM€™s Software Solutions Group, told eWEEK. €œHowever we foresee an increase in movement to hybrid clouds. We can provide our clients with both.€

IBM has deep expertise in the pharmaceutical industry and works with most of the world€™s pharmaceutical and life sciences companies in support of their discovery and development processes and providing business analytics to help deliver more personalized treatments, the company said.

Sproxil has been working closely with IBM since 2010, when it won IBM€™s SmartCamp Boston competition and then won honorable mention in IBM€™s SmartCamp World Finals. SmartCamp is an entrepreneurial contest that introduces startup companies to venture capitalists, academia, government and industry leaders who can help them grow their businesses. After Sproxil€™s performance in the IBM SmartCamps, the company received a round of funding earlier in 2012 from the Acumen Fund. Sproxil also is a member of IBM€™s Global Entrepreneur initiative, which assists startups with product development and speeds their time to market, IBM said.