For the time being, the poorest countries are not likely to use electronic tracking systems below the tertiary or bulk packaging at the warehouse level. Mobile phone verification, an ingenious form of mass serialization, can fill in for an electronic pedigree at a drug’s last step to the consumer. Mobile verification companies such as Sproxil take subscriptions from drug companies and wholesalers. Sproxil provides labels to their clients; each label is marked with a visible serial number and secret code hidden under the scratch-off surface. When the label is attached to the final package, the manufacturer enters the visible serial number in the Sproxil database through a secure web portal. The visible serial number links the product manufacturer, batch number, manufacture, and expiry dates to the secret scratch-off code.
At the point of purchase, the consumer sends a text message or, in some systems, an e-mail to the verification company, the company that makes the scratch-off labels and manages the linked database. The message is sent to a secure server, usually for no charge. An immediate text message response confirms if the secret code number is registered with the manufacturer, or if it is from a shipment reported to have left the legitimate supply chain. Mobile verification of pharmaceuticals is gaining users in 17 sub-Saharan African countries and India (Mukherjee, 2012; Sproxil, 2012; Versel, 2012). An elegant system for assigning unique product numbers, mobile verification empowers consumers to act for their own safety.
Mobile verification cannot prevent fraud, nor is it a substitute for pharmacovigilance and postmarket surveillance. A product could be substandard at the factory but still gain a valid mobile verification label. Mobile verification, however, appeals to good-quality manufacturers, who see the service as an investment in their brand or as a way for consumers to have