Integrating Blockchain for Revamping the Pharma Supply Chain

blockchain in pharma supply chain

  • In this blog, we explore some of the functional value of blockchain solutions for healthcare, particularly in the pharma supply chain.

    In recent times, even prominent hospitals have suffered from shortages of critical protective supplies due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Masks, gowns, and face masks fell short in production and supply. The race to get them further meant hospital and government representatives urgently hunting for reputable vendors. Critical shortages of test kits have arisen elsewhere also on the front lines. Swift demand escalation meant workers were unable to supply with long-established procurement procedures. They needed new secure sources and rapidly identifying and reallocating materials. Consequently, it revealed the medical supply chain’s long-festering issues.

    Blockchain Technology

    Now, the market is turning to technologies to solve pharma supply chain vulnerabilities.

    Companies can safely operate together on a centralized, immutable blockchain-enabled supply chain. Blockchain makes it quicker, simpler, and quicker to validate what is accurate as a business transaction spans companies with opposing interests. Without giving up ownership over or even exposing their results, they can do this. It is due to the availability of statistical evidence validation that stands as a credible substitute for real data. Currently, everybody needs to trust the system owned and operated by a large company. Instead, all members in the blockchain network govern the ledger. When combined with cryptography and smart contracts, checks and balances get secure and automated. Experts suggest that specifically private/permissioned blockchain solutions can strengthen supply chains. They can minimize complexity, prevent fraud and counterfeit, and provide assurance of product authenticity with efficiency.

    Also, Read | COVID-19 Calls for Supply Chain Visibility with Blockchain

    Applications of Blockchain in the Pharma Supply Chain 

    Supply Chain Security 

    Motivated by the need to monitor and eradicate illicit products on the market, the security of the supply chain has become of paramount importance. There is a need to transfer and exchange information through a large environment in combination with serialization and Track-n-Trace functionality.

    Blockchain technology can provide an enterprise-wide solution for supply chain protection. It enables even regulatory authorities across the industry to issue new mandates to improve the transparency of pharmaceutical supply chains and eradicate fake drugs.

    Also, Read | Fixing Fragmented Healthcare Supply Chain with Blockchain

    Drug Monitoring and Provenance Verification

    The delivery of new-age products has expanded exponentially in size and scope. A blockchain solution enables product traceability from the provenance of raw materials to larger healthcare markets. It makes it simpler to respond to product recalls, holds, and new market launches.

    Cold Pharma Supply Chain

    26 of the top 50 prescription products remain in the cold chain for distribution. The entire pharmaceutical product portfolio is temperature-sensitive under recent legislation. Present supply chains lack access to end-to-end cold chain data instantaneously and transparently. Thus, it leads to non-compliance with laws, failure to take timely remedial action, expanded liability, product damage, and, ultimately, life. Blockchain for cold supply chain may be the workaround at the point of dosing to trust the effectiveness of the medications.

    How Blockchain Creates a Difference 

    The pharma supply chain can experience a significant difference in various processes with a blockchain development approach. Barcodes will be checked and registered on a blockchain ledger system at any point of the process, tracking and establishing an audit trail of the drug path in turn. Sensor technology integration into the supply chain with the ledger device recording temperature or humidity is especially crucial for medicines that need preservation in the refrigerator, such as insulin or costly, specially made medicines.
    Alice can tell through the blockchain audit trail whether the drug manipulation occurred at some stage of the journey. Also, biometric measures can come in use to monitor the dispenser and pharmacist examining the drug, even when Alice dispenses the prescription. All of this can remain accessible on the register, allowing prescription monitoring from the moment of development before the patient brings the prescription home.

    Also, Read | Healthcare Data Sharing (POC) with Corda Blockchain

    Benefits of Implementing Blockchain in Pharma Supply Chain

    Decreased Cost and Complexity

    The supply chain becomes traceable while drugs, easy to monitor. Information networks provide expiry date information that facilitates quality management and rotation.

    Increased Security 

    Provides counterfeit drug preventive mechanisms to minimize threats, decrease patient data damage, and increases system data security

    Secure Transaction Exchange 

    When required, both parties can access the prescription information and ensure the safe dispense of medical drugs or equipment. Parties can trust information as it automates processes like substance quality and dispenses related decision-making.

    Establishes a Trail for Audit 

    Drugs become traceable, thus, enabling quicker and simpler recalls. Also, parties can see that at what point of the stage the mechanism has shown an error.

    Increases Transparency among Approved Parties 

    To ensure prescription validity, both participants can see every step of the drug journey. Authorities, such as pharmaceutical inspectors, can track the rate of illicit products entering the supply chain with greater specificity.

    Traceability Across all Operations of the Medical Supply Chain 

    The drug route becomes secure and simplified with blockchain. It is possible to track each delivery, with the delivery driver traced by biometric steps and other technologies. With technology integrations like biometric steps, 2d barcode scanner, or sensors, any checkpoint involving the drug becomes traceable with security. The entire drug journey becomes smooth, reliable, audited, and safe. Anyone with permission from the manufacturer to the patient can monitor medical equipment and medicines. For instance, Alice can guarantee that the medication she offers John is of quality. With the fact that the prescription is genuine, Bob can remain assured. He can see end-to-end information about medicine, including its provenance and contents due to enabled supply chain transparency.

    Also, Read | Blockchain for Thorium’s Supply Chain Traceability

    FDA pilots Blockchain to Strengthen Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Activities 

    Recently, IBM, KPMG, Merck, and Walmart participated as core partners in the pilot program administered by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These players provided support to the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Protection Act (DSCSA) to establish standards for the identification, surveillance, and recording of prescription medications and vaccines delivered throughout the United States with blockchain.

    As a result, the pilot program highlighted the potential of blockchain to connect diverse networks and organizations for product traceability. It also demonstrated how it boosts consumer safety by reducing timelines from days to seconds for a medication recall. The findings of the pilot program proved successful in showing the use of blockchain technologies.

    Looking for more information about how blockchain can transform your pharmaceutical supply chain, write to our development experts.

About Author

Mudit Kumar (Writer)

Mudit has been working with Oodles since 2017. He writes about technologies that not only disrupt the digital space but also influence the physical world. Initially, he explored revolutionary technologies like ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and AI (Artificial Intelligence). Now, he focuses on unfolding the elements of blockchain technology, given its potential and edge over others.

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