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eMedrep deploys AI to map fake product hotspots in Nigeria

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Have you been a victim of fake drug? Where you able to get justice? If not, then, this healthcare startup in Nigeria is out to tackle the menace.

The task of tackling this evil rests on every Nigerian, however, one of the startups supported by Sidmach Technologies Nigeria Limited; that is- eMedrep.com.ng, is adopting artificial intelligence which requires data to be more effective ‘fight’.

Actually, the The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) is on the look-out for fakers of food and drugs, to prosecute; but they aren’t really recording results as the society would expect. Why? They need facts and figures. The operatives need authenticated information to swoop on the culprits. Unfortunately, people aren’t providing the officials with adequate leads or reports.

On the other hand, manufacturers in the food and drugs value chain would prefer to harness user’s feedback so as to know how best to serve them.

On the user’s end, h/she would prefer a situation a purchase order is placed directly to the pharmaceutical company or any outlet mandated to do sale on their behalf and same is delivered directly to the home/office.

For these reasons and more, eMedrep was born.

TechEconomy met with Edwin Ajogun, the founder/CEO of eMedrep, a technology start-up with mandate to develop solutions to improve the lives of Nigerians by ensuring they access quality healthcare products and services no matter the status in the society.

“We build solutions that help to minimize the prevalence of fake products. Our intention is to enable manufacturers safeguard their supply chain so that everyone can access top quality products. We noticed that those who occupy lower class in the society have less access to quality healthcare products. We want this to change.

“Our flagship product- ReportThat (available on Google Play Store), is an app that enables consumers to securelyreport purchases of fake products to regulators, find verified vendors and verify the authenticity of products before purchase.

Benefits to manufacturers

“We have different products which manufacturers will benefit a lot from. ReportThat sends manufacturers notification on where counterfeit of their products are sold to help optimize their consumer protection efforts.We are developing intelligent strips that will facilitate product verification at all levels of the supply chain whilst giving the manufacturer valuable data on consumer consumption areas.

“We know they lose huge revenue to people counterfeiting their products. Many people think counterfeits are more glaring in the movie and beverages industries, but drugs occupy such a delicate position in our lives. Everybody that produces an item in Nigeria has the headache about someone somewhere with intention to counterfeit it. Our approach to the industry is that enhance lives by exposing them to the right products.

Edwin Ajogun, founder and CEO of eMedrep (m) flanked by members of the team

 

What should come to mind when eMedrep is mentioned?

“Our watchword is authenticity. When people think of eMedrep, they should think of original products. So, we are working on getting more licensed and verified professionals and licensed vendors geo-located so that people can locate them easily.

What is the difference between ReportThat and Pharmaco vigilance solution?

“ReportThat is a kind of pharmacovigilance solution but is not out to replace the existing ones but to complement them. We believe that it is not just enough to check if the product is fake or not, if the solution being offered does not offer the user to report a fake product, the vendor can simply sell it to somebody else.

Why?

“The app will bridge the gap between users and regulators. We once carried out a poll on social media with over 1000 respondents. Surprisingly, about 85% have bought a product that was fake. 45% of the 85% either returned the product or pressed for refund. The remaining 40% didn’t carry out any action. Interestingly, 0% made attempt to report to NAFDAC, SON, or CPC.

“So, we see a situation money are been pumped into regulating the industry. That why they tend to ‘attack’ it from the supply checks. But the fake products keep getting into the hands of Nigerians. They adopted an approach to track the movement of these products, even tracing it from the point of the seller, but because of some obvious reasons they can’t achieve maximum results.

“Then, this app will empower every Nigerians to become a potential NAFDAC, SON or CPC informant. It is whistle blowing using technology. We don’t want people to just go to social media post complaints about unfair deals; there should be genuine approach to rid the society of these unwholesome products. NADFAC is powerless without data or adequate information to prosecute offenders. With our app we are providing Nigerians with opportunity to initiate the process for prosecution.

How does the app work?

“It enables a user to take picture of the product, geo-locate the place of purchase and report. Thus, it provides opportunity for a user to lodge in complaint on what is perceived to be wrong with the product.

How does NAFDAC come in with regards working on the reports generated by the end-users?

“We have already approached NAFDAC. Although there is no official partnership yet, we are working on providing them with the data as we get it. But they are interested in it. Already, we are building a dashboard such that when someone reports, it gets to them (NAFDAC) directly at such a time a partnership is agreed.

Long term benefit

“We believe that in long run, Nigerians we will be mapping everywhere they bought fake products, within two to three years we will have a map that will show hotspots where these fake products are sold. In short, we will be using data to fight fake products.

“It is a much more cost-effective and efficient way to do so. So, it is a means of using AI to fight fake products which requires data. We actually need participation of every well-meaning Nigerians to download the app and start keeping catalogue of everything you have bought. The app is already on Google Play Store.

“My vision is that users should able to check whether that drug is original, report fake or even order for original products from stores near them.The idea is, going forward, we want people to register vendors they trust; we will verify them of course. For instance, if you want to buy Joy Soap, you just tap the app which directs you to the nearest verified vendor(s) of original Joy soap. The basis of this is data; which we are building now.

How about funding the project?

“We are currently venture-backed by Sidmach Technologies. They have shown commitment to see this solution breaks even in the market. As far as financing is concerned, we are taken care off. Sidmach is always committed to any of its ventures. That is why they are big today. They are always on the forefront of fighting what they believe in. ours happen to be one of the ventures they are giving a push. We launched about three weeks ago with close to 190downloads. We have been talking to people on social media and they have been responding.

What were your experiences before working on eMedrep?

“I worked with a pharmaceutical company in a supply chain for drugs. We tried to understand what the challenges are in a supply chain management for original medicines. One of the things about Nigerians with regards to health is they are more reactive as against proactive. People may not want to take action until things have deteriorated. This is something we must change. We need to change our attitude in that regard. Don’t spiritualise everything; falling sick isn’t a sin. The body is a machine, just like a car, and it can break down.

How about monitisation strategy?

“For the app is free for consumers. Our monetization strategy is centred on a high adoption rate which we are judiciously building. Imagine if 70% of Nigerian smartphone owners are using the App. Of course, Facebook wouldn’t have become what it is today if they charged people. Not that we are not worried about money; we are a business but our immediate focus is to get people’s buy-in to fighting fake products.

What has been NAFDAC’s response to the app?

“Yes, NAFDAC is a responsible government organisation, but most Nigerians are yet to appreciate their efforts due to the appendage we give Federal establishments. In fact, NAFDAC is looking for culprits to prosecute; they can’t find- people aren’t brining in leads or reports. However, they are constrained in some areas, but judging from their ability to verify claims people send, they are ready to work.

What are the projections in the next two to three years?

“We are seeing ourselves as becoming the go-to app for people buying offline. When a person wants to go to the market to buy a particular product, our app should be able to guide him on where to go. People talk about e-commerce, but a lot these ecommerce companies close. About 65% of people still shop offline, but the rest that shop online should know where to go to.

You studied a course related to computer science or medicine?

“I have always been in IT industry. I finished from Computer Engineering in OAU. I am an Oracle certified database administrator. But then, I have always seen myself as a process engineer. I think in process is anour- who A connects to B, C and D. This principle can be applied anywhere- in medicals, business. Understanding how things connect and trying to automate that process is what I have flair for.

How it all started

“When I finished school, I asked myself- where is the industry that is best for me to unleash my potentials. Out of many other places I chose healthcare because in that area there are two things: it is financial beneficial because everybody needs medical ‘attention’. So, the market is there. Therefore, if its through my app that families can live happily because they got attention through our services, then I am made.

How can rural dweller benefit from this?

“I think the assumption we have is that everybody in rural area use Feature Phones. Statistics say otherwise- it is the penetration that is lower. In the urban area you might get 30,000 potential informants, in the rural areas that might reduce to 20 or 30. But what we need is the commitment of people; even if it is one person in one community that is willing to report cases that will go a long way. We have built the app in such manner that lack of internet connectivity will not be a barrier.

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