Afghanistan Ministry of Health and Fantom announce National Rollout to combat drug fraud
On May 2, 2021, in a ceremony attended by a host of local government officials, the Fantom Foundation and the Afghanistan Ministry of Health jointly announced the successful trial of Fantom products and the official rollout of the National Medical Importation Security Initiative. Built on the blockchain-powered Fantom Tracker product, this anti-counterfeit pharmaceutical initiative responds to a critical need in Afghanistan for proven tools to identify illegal and counterfeit medicines.
The rollout in Afghanistan will be boosted by regional expansion, and Fantom will simultaneously offer its solutions across Central Asia.
Counterfeit Drugs: a Risky Business
Data published by the Medicine Importers Union suggests that at least 40% of medicines and medical products enter Afghanistan illegally. What’s more, the majority of these drugs are counterfeit or substandard. Unwitting buyers of counterfeit medicines risk prolonged illness, drug resistance, or much worse.
This issue, of course, is not local to Afghanistan. Fantom’s increased regional presence will serve to address both local counterfeit production and imports of fraudulent medical goods.
The Development and Testing of Fantom Tracker
Fantom Tracker integrates the Nigeria-based Chekkit Technologies’ scanning and verification tools with Fantom’s Opera blockchain. Immutable and blazingly fast, Opera secures manufacturer and supply-chain data and communicates it to users and consumers scanning Chekkit’s tamper-proof labels.
In an initial pilot phase, Fantom products were rigorously tested in Afghanistan by partners:
- Royal Star Pharma: Afghanistan’s largest importer and distributor of medical goods
- Bliss GVS Pharma: A large, publicly traded medical goods manufacturer based in Mumbai, India
- Nabros Pharma: A privately held, India-based manufacturer of pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals
During testing, retailers and consumers used Fantom tools to verify the authenticity of upwards of 80,000 personal and medical items. Data gathered by Royal Star Pharma indicated quick adoption by a general public keen for reassurance about the safety of their purchases.
Fantom is now looking to implement a national rollout to track 210 million units focusing on high-volume critical items like vaccines and COVID test kits.
Using Fantom Tracker
The Fantom Tracker solution will be distributed on an open-source basis, allowing any pharmaceutical enterprise to use the product. To ensure product verifiability, manufacturers simply need to affix a tamper-proof label supplied by Chekkit to drug packaging: when scanned, the label recalls vital product information, including expiry date, registration number, and more, all of which is stored on the immutable Fantom blockchain.
Crucially, the Fantom solution is easy for the public to use. All customers needs to do is to remove the scratch-off sticker from the Chekkit label. This reveals:
- A QR code that can be scanned on an internet-enabled mobile phone with the Chekkit app, and
- A pin code for users without internet connectivity. By calling a local phone number and entering the code, users can access the same data available through the app.
Whether via internet app or phone, customers are immediately served information about product authenticity. When a counterfeit is detected, Fantom smart technology immediately notifies the retailer, manufacturer, and appropriate government agencies.
The Afghanistan Initiative and Beyond
Implementation of the Fantom Tracker is a major part of the ongoing partnership between Fantom and the Afghanistan Ministry of Health. Under the National Medical Importation Security Initiative, the parties will continue to work together to develop comprehensive solutions to the counterfeit drug issue.
Following the Ministry of Health announcement, Fantom CEO Michael Kong said: “Fantom is going to play a major role in addressing a chronic public-health issue. In South Asia, team members Barek Sekandari, Samuel Harcourt, Jawid Sikandar, Jakub Stepanik, and their teams played a major role in ensuring that we developed a customizable and robust product for the pilot program. I am grateful to the Afghanistan Ministry of Health for allowing us to demonstrate our scalable and user-friendly solution.”
The launch in Afghanistan represents the first step that the Fantom Foundation is taking to address a global phenomenon. According to a World Health Organization study, fake drugs comprise almost 10% of the global medicine market, a figure that implies a market of nearly $40 billion. Subsequent to offering its solution regionally, Fantom will address further international markets in a broader effort to end vulnerabilities within the global supply chain.