Too often, the products intended to keep us healthy do the opposite. For example, approximately five years ago, Togolese tailor Ayawo Hievi was struck down by malaria and typhoid. Hievi thought that he would recover after taking drugs prescribed by a doctor. But, instead, the medication – specifically quinine and antibiotics – worsened the situation, eventually costing him one of his kidneys.
After two weeks of suffering, they took him to another hospital in the West African nation’s capital Lome as he couldn’t walk. In 2020, Hievi remained crippled by chronic kidney failure and had to make regular hospital visits for dialysis four years later. What is even scarier is that this horrific story is far from unique to him or Togo.
The Problem: The Distribution Of Fake Medicines
Globally, counterfeit medication kills 1 million people per year, with more than 10% of that in Africa alone. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), fake drugs are the world’s most lucrative counterfeit goods, with a global market worth roughly $200 billion across 100 countries and Africa accounting for around 42%.
The United Nations’ sustainable development goals stipulate the need to achieve universal health coverage, including access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all by 2030. However, a study by PwC estimates that up to 70% of the drugs in circulation across Africa and other developing parts of the world may be fake. Research from the WHO also indicates that 1 in 10 medical products being circulated in low and middle-income countries is either substandard or falsified.
Other estimates indicate that falsified and substandard drugs for treating malaria, pneumonia and other diseases may be killing around 250,000 children every year.
Africa’s counterfeit drug problem stems from poor drug traceability, which relates to poor infrastructure and poor tracking across borders. As a result, most of the deaths and incidences due to counterfeit medicines are prevalent in places where high demand for drugs combines with inadequate surveillance, quality control and regulations to make it easy for criminal gangs and cartels to infiltrate the market. Often they face only fines or minor sentences if caught.
Counterfeiting is hard to detect, investigate, quantify, or stop and impacts the entire healthcare ecosystem from regulators to pharmacies and patients. To extrapolate that scale across the African continent exposes some very dire situations. Besides, counterfeiters always find ways to retool and come back with more sophistication to deceive the unsuspecting public and consumers.
For example, counterfeit products are quickly manufactured and distributed when new medicines and vaccines are born. The cost of deploying the necessary systems to track down each new counterfeit drug is prohibitive, and aligning the required stakeholders isn’t easy to achieve. It is therefore difficult for African governments and medical institutions to solve this problem alone.
This presents an opportunity for the Amazon of medicines in Africa. RxAll is creating just that, building a system that eliminates counterfeits and allows everyone to access authenticated drugs.
The Future: RxAll
Founded in 2016, RxAll offers a suite of solutions that span the medicine retail supply chain, connecting it distinctively by enabling pharmacies, hospitals and patients to access and buy authenticated medicines. Through RxAll, pharmacies and hospitals access authenticated medication at wholesale prices and increase sales, giving the patients access to affordable, high-quality medicines.
Core to RxAll’s product suite is the RxScanner, a handheld hardware authenticator designed for drug verification and connected to a mobile application. The patent-protected RxScanner is a technical breakthrough in hardware development that can verify the quality of prescription drugs displaying results on a mobile phone in 20 seconds or less.
The prescription drugs supported include tablets, powders and liquids, and it can achieve the verification without destroying or contaminating the sample.
Drugs authenticated as genuine can be bought online by pharmacies and patients for offline delivery through RxDelivered, a B2B marketplace. RxDelivered efficiently connects buyers to sellers, i.e. manufacturers to wholesalers to retailers.
RxAll carefully curates high-quality sellers to its marketplace and provides them with the RxScanner, which reads the sample spectra and sends test results indicating the identity and the quality versus the reference. Once testing is over, sellers can now push the product into the marketplace and make it available for on-demand ordering, pick-up, and deliveries.
When it comes to patients, typically, a doctor prescribes medication whose order is placed online through RxDelivered. RxAll will then deliver the prescription to the hospital, pharmacy or the patient’s premises.
In the end, pharmacies, hospitals and patients save time they would have otherwise used in the open markets or commute, reduce their transportation expenses and receive high-quality medication. At the same time, RxAll helps their pharmaceuticals wholesaler network increase sales and achieve more comprehensive coverage and visibility.
How RxAll Works
With RxAll, the authentication process is straightforward. After scanning drugs, one can view the results on a mobile phone in real-time. Today, RxScanner has flagged a decent percentage of scanned medicines as counterfeit. Recording all scanned data lets them know the number of legitimate drug inventories and fraud grasped in real-time.
RxAll delivers batch quality-certified drugs to hospitals, pharmacies and patients using their digital ordering platform. It is actively validating the authenticity of medicines for more than 1 million patients while servicing thousands of medical professionals from hospitals and pharmacies as of March 2021.
With its services, RxAll helps reduce deaths and complications from taking fake drugs across the continent. Also, pharmacies and patients now save time they would have otherwise used in the open markets or commute, reduce their transportation expenses and receive high quality and non-counterfeit products without leaving the comfort of their homes- all at wholesale prices.
Adebayo Alonge, Co-founder/CEO: Adebayo is a pharmacist and market development professional with a business degree from Yale. He has 10-plus years in market development and strategy consulting across Africa, working with the Boston Consulting Group, BASF, Roche and Sanofi.
Amy Kao, Co-founder/CMO: Amy is a graduate of the Yale School of Management MBA program and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Carnegie Mellon University. She has 5-plus years of management consulting experience with global pharmaceutical companies in New York and Asia and focuses on go-to-market strategy in emerging markets.
Wei Liu, Co-founder/CTO: Wei is a PhD. in Biophysical Chemistry at Yale with technical expertise in interface/surface chemistry and analytical spectroscopy. Has development experience building molecular sensor algorithms and developing big data platforms for spectroscopy-based research.
Mads Glahder, Chief Data Scientist: Mads is a data scientist with experience in applied machine learning, specialising in modelling chemistry and spectroscopy. Mads holds a masters degree in Food Science and Technology from the University of Copenhagen.
At Future Africa, we are excited to be a part of RxAll’s journey as it builds the future of medicine. We welcome the RxAll team to the Future Africa community.