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health leadIn a country where approximately 30% of all medications sold are counterfeit, a Pakistani start-up ProCheck – is on a mission to reduce this figure, ensuring that people have access to safe and authentic medicines. This is a welcome initiative given that several instances of fake drug usage have endangered hundreds of lives in recent years.

Incorporated in 2014, the start-up is in the process of establishing collaborative partnerships with the largest pharmaceutical brands operating in the country. Once these agreements are finalised, every strip/bottle of medicine manufactured by these companies will have an eight-digit alphanumeric authentication code imprinted on it. To verify that the medicine they have purchased is original and has not expired, all buyers need to do is to SMS the code to 9900, after which they will receive a message confirming whether or not the medications are valid.

Currently, this code is imprinted on the tablets of only eight brands, but Saim Siddiqui, CEO, ProCheck, believes that his company will be able to bring almost 20 brands on-board by the end of the year. This will allow the company to imprint the verification code on almost 35 million strips manufactured in the next few months.

As the number of smartphone users and health-aware individuals in Pakistan grows, more people are likely to take advantage of this service.

Furthermore, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) is considering legislation to make these verification checks mandatory; the pharmaceutical industry watchdog has already imposed a ban – expected to take effect from July, 2016 – on the sales of unregistered herbal products.

In addition to keeping people safe from the perils of counterfeit medicines, ProCheck’s services will enable pharmaceutical companies and health professionals to regulate self-medication and reduce the incidence of drug overdose in Pakistan.

– Dr Tariq Saeed

The writer is a general practitioner.