Software provider to Merck taps IBM cloud to fight fake drugs

Counterfeit drugs are infiltrating the U.S. market, one of the most technologically sophisticated markets on earth. How do developing countries stand a chance in the battle against fakes? Cambridge, MA-based Sproxil, which provides tech to combat drug counterfeiting to Merck ($MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), says the company has harnessed IBM's ($IBM) cloud computing and visualization software to improve its product.

With Sproxil's software, consumers use mobile phones to text message codes from the labels of their prescriptions to verify the authenticity of the drugs. The IBM collaboration enables venture-backed Sproxil's pharma-manufacturing customers to view and analyze consumer data to spot counterfeit drug activity in developing countries in places like Africa. Phony drugs account for 25% to 50% of medicines in developing countries and cost makers of the real thing about $75 billion annually, according to Sproxil.

The fake Avastin uncovered in the U.S. market recently highlighted the global problem of counterfeit meds. In developing countries, the acuteness of the issue appears in the annual death toll attributed to fake antimalarial meds: 200,000, or a fifth of all fatalities from the infectious killer malaria. The World Health Organization places the number of annual number deaths from counterfeit antimalarial drugs and tuberculosis meds at 700,000.

Sproxil's service gives pharma groups access to the counterfeit drug data virtually anywhere with the help of IBM's cloud tech, according to the company. IBM's "ILOG Elixir" software lets users of Sproxil's product see charts and graphics to visualize data on counterfeits.

- here's the company's release
- see the article in eWeek