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Could mobile phones help battle a deadly disease?
(15/12/2010 10:49:17)

Mobile phone technology is being used in Africa to potentially save the lives of up to 700,000 malaria sufferers.

This figure represents the number of people that die every year because they are using counterfeit forms of vital medication.

A pilot scheme has been launched in Ghana and Nigeria, which utilises mobile phones to clamp down on the amount of fake tablets on the market, BBC News reports.

The initiative will see genuine medicine bottles come with a scratchable label that will have a unique code underneath.

By sending the number to a free phone line via text message, sufferers will receive confirmation on whether a drug is real or not.

Initially the idea will be stretched across 500,000 bottles of tablets and if successful could be applied to more than six million packages within the next year.

HP is involved in the process and spokesperson Gabriele Zedlmayer hopes it will significantly reduce death rates across Africa.

"Some genuine medicines have lost their potency because of the counterfeiting. This is just the first step, it can be applied to any kind of medication," she told the broadcaster.

Fake drugs are a problem worldwide, with estimations claiming between 10 and 15 per cent are bogus, however this figure is thought to reach 50 per cent across Africa.

Governments in both countries have backed the scheme and a number of pharmacists have also thrown their support behind the project.

A study released this week by ABI Research has indicated that sales of mobile phones are anticipated to soar in "emerging economies" in the next few years.

The company suggested that demand for low-end handsets in African countries will lead to a flurry of shipments, with sales predicted to hit 360 million by 2015 – a rise of almost one-quarter on 2010.

Vice-president of the group Kevin Burden added: "Falling prices in this market segment will make mobile phones accessible even to lower income groups in emerging economies."

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