Can a Smartphone Application Help Address Barriers to Reporting Substandard/Falsified Medical Products? A Pilot Study in Tanzania and Indonesia

Glob Health Sci Pract. 2023 Aug 28;11(4):e2300034. doi: 10.9745/GHSP-D-23-00034. Print 2023 Aug 28.


Introduction: Reporting is an essential component of efforts to combat the distribution and circulation of substandard and falsified (SF) medical products worldwide. However, little is known about why health care professionals (HCPs) do not report suspect products to the national medicine regulatory authority (NMRA) and what measures might address this. This pilot study aimed to assess the utility of a smartphone application for reporting SF medical products in Tanzania and Indonesia.

Methods: At baseline, in 2017, HCPs completed a survey describing perceived barriers to reporting and received training in the identification of SF products and received use of the smartphone reporting application (N=309). The application reporting system was piloted for 6 months. Evaluations took place with HCPs and NMRA staff at the midpoint and endline of the pilot study (2018).

Results: At baseline, HCPs surveyed (n=254) identified the following key barriers to reporting: difficulties identifying SF products, frustrations with existing reporting systems, and fears that reporting may have personal or reputational repercussions. During the pilot period, HCPs submitted a total of 36 reports of 27 products to the NMRAs in their respective countries; of these, 8 products were determined to be SF and 2 were unregistered. In all 10 cases, appropriate regulatory action was taken. Feedback from HCPs and NMRA staff was positive in both countries, suggesting that the application addressed several barriers to reporting as it was convenient and, importantly, opened a line of communication between HCPs and the NMRA. However, the application did not address all barriers to reporting, such as concerns of repercussions.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that this smartphone application may be useful for improving HCPs' reporting of suspected SF products. Developing and piloting similar reporting applications in other countries and contexts is required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Indonesia
  • Pilot Projects
  • Smartphone*
  • Tanzania