Pfizer and Vodafone are promoting more efficient pharmaceutical supply chains using mobile phone technologies. Photo Credit: The World Bank

Improving Pharmaceutical Supply Chains using Mobile Phones

In parts of the developing world, hospitals and health clinics run short of prescription medications just when they are needed most putting whole communities at risk to illness, disease, and even death. Pharmaceutical company Pfizer and mobile technology company Vodafone have partnered together on a commitment to the Business Call to Action aimed at addressing these gaps by improving access and reliability of medicine supplies using mobile phone technology.

The initiative, called “SMS for Health”, uses real-time information collected via mobile phones to track medication stock levels and expiry dates to help capture information that can be used to predict the seasonal variation in the rates of disease in particular regions. The project, which is currently being piloted in The Gambia, covers 50 health clinics as well as the central and regional medical stores throughout the country and at five major hospitals.

Pharmacists, health care providers, and store managers have been trained to use a simple coding system which allows them to text the stock levels for 20 medications including expiry dates and disease event rates for 10 diseases to a central database.  The data will help the Ministry of Health and pharmaceutical companies will show where improvements in the Gambian supply chain are needed so that medicines reach more patients in a timely manner.

Based on the early success of the pilot project, Pfizer and Vodafone anticipate that they could begin expanding access to “SMS for Health” in other African markets over the next five years.


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