Blockchain to cut fraud in healthcare supply chains

Better track and trace means field agencies can have more confidence that medications are real thing.

James Hayes | 9th May 18
Image showing medicines, representing healthcare supply chains Unsplash/freestocks.org

Blockchain* will play a key role in the support of supply chain transformation in the healthcare sector by helping to reduce fraud and better manage quality in the manufacturing and distribution of pharmaceutical products.

Data analytics company GlobalData has said that several technology and pharmaceutical companies are working on innovative solutions that combine digital marking of pharmaceutical products with the secure distributed ledger technology of blockchain. Their aim is to provide a means to securely and reliably track the products throughout their entire lifecycle.

Counterfeiting continues to be a significant problem within the global pharmaceutical sector, with the World Health Organisation estimating the cost to the industry of counterfeit drugs at over $30bn.

“The challenge of tracking pharmaceutical products from lab to patient is a significant one, with multiple opportunities for external parties to introduce counterfeit products,” said Bonnie Bain, Global Head of Pharma at GlobalData. “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.”

“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, 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.”

Barnett added: “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.”

CDN JargonBusta blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Each block typically contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. By design, a blockchain is inherently resistant to modification of the data. It is described as ‘an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way’. (Source: Wikipedia)