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  June 1st, 2018 | Written by

Blockchain to Shape Next Generation Healthcare Supply Chains

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  • In some markets, relying on ineffective medicines represents a risk to public health.
  • The challenge of tracking pharmaceutical products from lab to patient is significant.
  • Companies are working on solutions that combine digital marking of pharma products with blockchain technology.

Blockchain technology will play a key role in supporting supply chain transformation in the healthcare sector by helping to reduce fraud and better manage quality in the manufacturing and distribution of pharmaceutical products, according to leading data and analytics company GlobalData.

Counterfeiting is a significant problem within the pharmaceutical industry, with the World Health Organization estimating the cost to the industry of counterfeit drugs at over $30 billion.

“This isn’t just a financial loss,” said Bonnie Bain, global head of pharma at GlobalData. “It also reflects the fact that in some markets, notably emerging economies, relying on ineffective medicines represents a risk to public health.

“The challenge of tracking pharmaceutical products from lab to patient is a significant one, with multiple opportunities for external parties to introduce counterfeit products,” she added. “The ability to trace the journey of an individual dose of medicine from the time of manufacture to the time it is administered could have a significant impact on patient safety and could dramatically reduce the financial losses associated with counterfeiting.”

A number of technology and pharmaceutical companies are working on innovative solutions that combine digital marking of pharmaceutical products with secure distributed ledger technology (blockchain) to provide a means to securely and reliably track products throughout their entire lifecycle.

“While the pharma industry is awash with blockchain hype, there are a number of segments where blockchain has the potential to play a transformational role, notably in managing the provenance of pharmaceutical products as they pass through the supply chain,” said Gary Barnett, a technology analyst at GlobalData. “Blockchain is particularly interesting where a network of different players in different geographies have to coordinate their actions. The supply chain for pharmaceuticals is long, complex and very prone to abuse, so any technology that helps assure the provenance and quality of drugs will bring benefits to the industry and society at large.”

Companies like IBM are working on blockchain-based platforms that can securely track and trace products from the procurement of the raw materials, through to manufacture and consumption. Innovative new approaches to marking products like pharmaceuticals offer the potential to track the lifecycle of pharmaceutical products down to a single dose.