In the digital age where, technology is leading the way, blockchain has emerged as a disruptor in several industries from financial services to energy and life sciences. Blockchain allows visibility and data integrity along with security against data hacking through decentralised blocks linked by the cryptography technique.
The pharma industry has for long been crippled with privacy and transparency issues impacting areas such as clinical trials, supply chain, counterfeit drugs. To address these challenges, the industry and players alike have been turning to latest technologies such as blockchain.
When it comes to clinical trial management, there have been concerns around data accuracy and privacy. Patient studies results in huge amount of data sets that can be tampered with. Blockchain makes it easy to manage complex data in secure decentralised ledgers, thus providing patients with real-time insight into the clinical trial outcomes and increasing their confidence to be open in sharing their medical information. This also leads to shorter cycles for drug discovery and development. Integration of blockchain technology thus allows drug companies to ensure regulatory compliance, product integrity, and consumer trust.
The pharmaceutical industry’s supply chain is vast and complex, and products undergo multiple transfers along the chain. This leads to a logistical nightmare for manufacturers as they do not have visibility into the process of sale to the end consumer. Blockchain technology helps manufacturers with real-time access and visibility into the supply chain beginning with supplier product codes through the drug dispensing to patients. Blockchain technology also helps manufacturers bring down dependencies on third parties resulting in data authenticity and cost savings.
Pharma companies face another serious challenge in counterfeit drugs — the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates around 10 per cent of drugs across the world to be counterfeit and these drugs lead to estimated 1 million deaths every year. In the hope of slowing the fake meds, governments around the world are tightening their supply chain integrity requirements. In the European Union, the Falsified Medicines Directive stipulates that pharma companies and others in the drug supply chain will need to serialise their products for track-and-trace by February 2019. The US introduced the Drug Supply Chain Security Act in 2013, giving the industry until 2023 to institute full, unit-level track-andtrace systems for products as they move through the supply chain. Blockchain enables verifiable transactions through digital records at every point of change thus curbing the prospect of fake drugs becoming part of the supply chain.
Blockchain has the potential to provide a platform for the protection and facilitation of intellectual property, including the facilitation of royalties, payments, and incentivisation models that could encourage participants to provide input into the research and development process. Blockchain can provide anonymity and trust to verify and audit any activity and hence many companies have begun to realise the specific utility of blockchain technology.
The cover story of this issue delves into the various use cases of blockchain for the pharma industry.