From the increasing number of scandals of counterfeit medicines to meddling with the ingredients of medicines, patients have trust issues now. This mistrust will definitely be detrimental to the healthcare sector.
However, blockchain is here to rescue.
Apart from being the recent buzzword of the internet, blockchain has the capacity to transform the whole face of the pharma industry. So, how can pharma leverage blockchain to improve the existing supply chain systems? How will blockchain development in supply chain be useful for all? Keep reading to know more.
Blockchain for healthcare
The blockchain is the newest technology for crypto-currencies. It is popular for its various large-scale ransomware attacks. But, it can also bring tangible benefits to the healthcare sector. Moreover, blockchain can be a natural facilitator for electronic health records.
Thereby, these records will be shareable between different health organisations. This will help in completing tasks without hampering the security of the data. Similarly, there are many reasons to promote blockchain pharmaceutical supply chain too.
According to Statista, the adoption of blockchain applications will increase in the future. In fact, almost 55 per cent of healthcare applications will be adopting blockchain for commercial deployment by 2025.
It is clear that the blockchain will grow to become an important part of the healthcare industry. From the facility to store and share information to improved trust levels among stakeholders, blockchain has become the need of the hour for the healthcare system. So, let’s take a look at how blockchain can be a remedy for the pharma industry and drug supply chains.
How Blockchain can be the salvation of the pharma industry?
There are many innovative applications using blockchain in the public healthcare sector. But, the pharmaceutical sector is also an integral part of healthcare. It handles developing, manufacturing and distributing of the medicines used worldwide by everyone. Today, blockchain technology can revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry too. Let’s see how.
Maintaining Supply Chain Integrity
The face of the pharma industry that needs improvement is the drug supply chain. The menace of counterfeit medicines has become very serious. It is actually encouraging the global black market. Besides, it also poses a high risk to human life. This is because people consume counterfeit drugs that may not have the same ingredients or dosage levels as the real medicines.
Many developing areas like Asia, Africa and South America, are popular for the trading of counterfeit drugs. In fact, these medicines comprise between 10% and 30% of the total medicines on sale. Major international investigations have helped in massive seizures of such fake medicines. But, it has been challenging to eradicate this problem.
That is why the pharma industry must leverage blockchain technology to maintain the integrity of drug supply chains. According to Statista, about 53 per cent of the companies worldwide are using blockchain technology for a supply chain.
Improving Public transparency
Today, patients can search for their medical condition, treatment procedures, and symptoms online. Further, patients are more aware of the latest scandals of pharmaceutical industry now.
But, the problem is that information about reliable pharma labs can be often misinterpreted. Thus, the names of these labs get tainted, based on poor evidence. Such fake news often focuses only on the profit and not on the patient’s well-being. This leads to trust issues between healthcare stakeholders and patients too.
And that is why promising tool of the present decade i.e. the blockchain technology is a saviour. In fact, improving public transparency is a very important blockchain use case in pharma. Moreover, the blockchain is a decentralized data management system. It is popular for being the underlying technology of the crypto-currency. This distributed ledger technology has been growing popular due to its central attributes. These attributes include security, transparency and traceability.
The current research on blockchain technology forms 80% of the papers. These papers are about Bitcoin only. But, 20% explore other aspects of this technology too. So, it is the need of the hour to explore blockchain technology in the healthcare sector.
Achieving Decentralized Registry
Clinical trials in the pharma industry will always attract blockchain technology. Yet, blockchain companies must come to a consensus with all the stakeholders of the network. This is vital even before being able to register an information on the blockchain. Also, these stakeholders take part in the regulatory organisations for supervising the process. The main advantage of such organisations is that the more people exist in a network with different interests, the more chances there are for adding authentic and reliable data on the blockchain.
This technology has tremendous use in clinical trials. As per Benchoufi et al, blockchain can ensure the authenticity and traceability of consent of patients. Also, companies can use blockchain for storing of timestamping details of the proof of the existence of each consent form. Besides, it will enable clinical research stakeholders to share consent in real-time. Further, patients can know it each time if there is a change in the protocol that needs a renewal of consent.
Also, smart contracts are also useful for triggering events when coded clauses are not understandable. For instance, if you register a patient’s consent with a unique digital signature then you can include the patients in the trial.
Tracking of drugs
Today, the drug supply chain has grown much in scope and complexity. However, it still lags behind in the necessary digital technologies and management systems. These are crucial for simplifying and securing the process. In fact, pharmaceutical manufacturers have very little visibility for tracking the authenticity of products. Moreover, there might be many vulnerabilities in the drug supply chain too.
This is where the blockchain technology can make a difference. It has many significant benefits. With blockchain, the process of scanning the barcode-tagged drugs is more efficient. In other words, all drugs enter into secure digital blocks whenever they pass from one party to another. Besides, any authorised party of the supply chain can view such real-time tracking records at any time.
Furthermore, smart contracts enable free trade for all parties involved in the supply chain. Also, blockchain has the ability to introduce rules for trades that are at all stages in a transparent way.
Assisting smaller supply chain players
One of the most important blockchain use cases in the pharma industry will be assisting the smaller supply chain players. Though product integrity and anti-counterfeiting are the necessary things to improve the industry, blockchain could also play a role here.
Blockchain can help small operators to overcome the financial challenges faced in the supply chain. This is actually a huge problem in developing countries. This is because the drug supply chains are often more fragmented in these countries. Besides, hundreds of companies take a small share of the market.
For instance, in China, pharma retailers face this problem. They face issues in accessing financing without proper credit records and collateral. Also, retailers have to wait two to three months for receiving payments for delivered medicines. But, the feature of transparency in blockchain can help in getting rid of this issue.
Altogether, blockchain is a blessing in disguise for the pharma industry. Though blockchain is growing at a slow pace, it has many benefits for the healthcare industry. Yet, the main concern about adoption of blockchain is that it has as an interest only when referring to secure transactions. So, encouraging and implementing blockchain systems in hospitals or pharmaceutical companies is necessary. In other words, there must be efforts to attract more pharmaceutical companies. Thus, pharma can leverage this new disrupting technology for optimising supply chains.