Mobile service PharmaSecure finds demand in losing fight against fake drugs

PharmaSecure has expanded rapidly as the pharma industry seeks to authenticate its goods amid out-of-control counterfeiting. Patients might have the most at stake in verification of medicines, with fake drugs blamed for killing thousands of people annually.

As The Guardian reports, PharmaSecure authenticates meds on a large scale on behalf of drug manufacturers, perhaps even larger than competitors like Sproxil and mPedigree. PharmaSecure, which has a U.S. office in Lebanon, NH, and an India base in Gurgaon, has churned out verifications for more than 500 million packages of medicine. Patients or others along the supply chain use codes from the company to check the authenticity of medicines with their mobile phones or other electronic means.

With more than 500 million packages encoded, PharmaSecure has grown rapidly since claiming in October 2011 to have printed more than 65 million pharma packages with unique ID codes. Back in 2011, Google ($GOOG) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors and others invested $3.9 million in PharmaSecure's fledgling business.

It may have been a wise bet, but for tragic reasons. Counterfeit drugs have swept across the world, finding unknowing victims in developing countries like India, and have left in their wake sickness and death. The American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, DC-based think tank, estimates the annual death toll from fake drugs is more than 100,000. And Deloitte placed the market for the potentially hazardous meds at $75 billion to $200 billion.

"Even though we're churning out so many meds, we are still only saturating 5% of the Indian market. We are now working hard to make this scale," PharmaSecure CEO Nathan Sigworth said, as quoted by The Guardian.

PharmaSecure works with Interpol on using its system to detect patterns of counterfeit activity to trigger alerts. Patients use the system at no cost, with drugmakers footing the bill for the service. Yet based on the high death toll and fortunes accumulating for counterfeit dealers, it's safe to say that pharma and other stakeholders are losing the battle to stem the use of fakes.

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