The Problem

Hundreds of thousands of people die each year from counterfeit medicine. This is especially serious in the developing world. Diseases like Malaria and Tuberculosis could be prevented with medicines readily available in well-regulated markets, but in countries like Nigeria, for instance, a person is two-thirds more likely to be receiving a fake drug than a real one. That means that for every three people that go to get medicine to cure their potentially life-threatening disease, only one is getting the real drug. That is horrible. We think that can dramatically change with the help of science and technology.

Typically, a costly and time-consuming lab analysis is the only way to discover what a pill is made of. This solution is not viable or practical in a developing country marketplace. Other, less advanced techniques exist, like Thin Layer Chromatography (“TLC”). This is essentially like a litmus test for pH, but instead of measuring pH, you are seeing a rough glimpse into the different substances present in the sample. This is great, especially since it only costs a few dollars per test. But, it’s easily tricked. Essentially, if there is any trace of the substance you are looking for, it will show up. So, if a counterfeiter just put a tiny amount of the “real” drug in, a TLC test would tell the user that the sample is “real” even if most of the drug is chalk or paint or some other substance that will not help the patient. This is not just a hypothetical; it’s what counterfeiters are doing now. It’s horrendous!

Currently, there is no affordable and timely solution to provide the lab-quality analysis desperately needed, but we think we can change that. Our Solution