2010 Tutu Fellow Bright Simons is being called a champion of safe medicine in Africa. The social entrepreneur and policy activist has developed software that enables consumers to instantly verify the authenticity of medicine they buy. The person buying the medicine enters a code on the medicine at the point of sale on their mobile phone and gets a reply confirming if the medicine they are getting is authentic or not.
Simons had attempted a similar concept previously for farmers seeking organic certifications, but without success. Using what he'd learned, he applied it to the regulated pharmaceutical industry, starting his company mPedigree. A 12-digit code is hidden beneath a scratch-off panel on the medicine that consumers can text to a dedicated database and get an instant confirmation about what they are purchasing. It also protects distributors, who can check that the supply they are receiving has not been compromised.
mPedigree has its code on half a billion medicine packs in Africa and the idea is being adopted in India and elsewhere in Asia. Simons says that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), about two thousand people die daily worldwide from counterfeit medicine. As an activist, he contends that his company is making a difference in preventing this from happening.
You can read more about mPedigree and the report on Bright Simons, including a video interview, at This is Africa. The image at the top of the page is also from that publication. The graphic below is from WHO.