Fake drugs kill people, mostly in developing countries, who think they are taking the real thing to combat their illnesses. In this sad scenario, patients and their families lose and, from a business standpoint, makers of the real drugs lose sales. The World Health Organization estimates that 700,000 patients in Africa perish as a result of dummy versions of anti-malaria and tuberculosis meds and the problem costs drugmakers $75 billion annually. The killer problem has pushed the startup Sproxil to work with tech giant IBM ($IBM) to enable drug companies to analyze Big Data sources to spot patterns of counterfeit drug activity.
Sproxil aims to amass large amounts of transactional data with a system that enables patients to text-message codes from medicine bottles to learn whether the meds are authentic. With IBM's visualization tech and other analytics, drugmakers can tap petabytes of data on drug transactions in real time, according to Big Blue. Presumably, prescription drug frauds can be spotted quickly with such capabilities. And Sproxil has already been working with Merck KGaA and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) to ensure that patients in Africa are getting the manufacturers' drugs and not fakes.