Pakistani startup challenges menace of fake drugs

Buyer can check authenticity of medicines via SMS

Salman Siddiqui May 08, 2016
Buyer can check authenticity of medicines via SMS. PHOTO: AFP


It just so happens that Pakistan is a country where there is a lot of room for startups.

The combination of rampant counterfeiting of drugs and high mobile phone penetration in Pakistan has paved the way for yet another startup – ProCheck – to come up with a way to help medicine buyers be sure of authenticity.

Pakistani entrepreneurs help farmers get more milk out of their cattle

Its business model is simple.

“When you buy a medicine you would find an eight-digit alphanumeric authentication code printed on the back side of the strips {of only eight brands at present}. You SMS the code at 9900 and we will tell you whether the medicine is authentic or not,” said Saim Siddiqui Chief Executive Officer ProCheck.

“We are in the process of printing the unique code on 35 million strips,” he said.

The length of the codes might vary with the advancement of technology in the future.

“We incorporated the project in December 2014. Recently, the Ferozsons Laboratories has awarded us a contract to help medicine buyers avoid fake and expired medicines at the buying time,” he said.

Siddiqui added that such measures would help curb events such as those in Punjab when fake medicines took the lives of over 100 patients, saying that close to 30% of the total medicines sold in the country are either fake or a counterfeit — meaning that a market for the startup definitely exists.

Journey of a backbencher at a government school to a seat in UN

Besides Ferozsons, ProCheck is engaged in talks with another six of the top 10 pharmaceutical firms in Pakistan to find a collaborative way of helping medicine buyers. “We are confident that we can include around 20 brands by December 2016 from only eight at present,” he said.

The startup started the project with seed money of $125,000. It is now close to achieving its target of booking revenue of $1 million from the project by the end of current calendar year 2016. This is a company of only five employees, including the CEO, Siddiqui said.

He says the project would also help the pharmaceutical firms monitor whether patients are taking medicines on time and would also help issuing diet and exercise advisories according to a patient’s needs.

Siddiqui says the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan is considering imposing legislation to make such checks compulsory. Nigeria, Iran and Egypt have included similar legislations.

Startup wins $20m project, will install 5,000 vending machines

ProCheck plans to approach firms selling seeds for agriculture produces and auto-parts manufacturers to run a similar project that would help them to avoid counterfeiting and earn due share of their revenue.

The writer is a staff correspondent

Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2016.

Like Business on Facebook, follow @TribuneBiz on Twitter to stay informed and join in the conversation.


Dr bismha | 6 years ago | Reply That is absolutely Amazing
Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ

Most Read