Far from the licensed pharmacies of Accra, Ghana, medicines are often peddled rather than dispensed. In rural villages, roving vendors move medicines from market to market selling them out of wheelbarrows or packages carried on top of their heads. They sell the cheapest medicines, like painkillers, but also important over-the-counter drugs such as anti-malarials. Often they become local authorities on medicines as they get to know their inventory. But the drugs the merchants sell aren’t always what they think they are.
“Mobile peddlers will sell anything they can get their hands on,” says Selorm Branttie, lead marketing strategist at the African company mPedigree, which all too often includes falsified drugs that don’t contain the right active ingredient or contain too little of it. These drugs are a huge medical problem in Africa and around the world. The Ghana-based mPedigree has developed a technological solution to this public health problem, using the source many Africans trust the most: their mobile phones.
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