Point of View

Big Pharma Must Invest in Distributed Ledger Technologies to Secure Their Supply Chains

April 17, 2020

The pharmaceutical industry has a huge issue on their hands because, according to the Worldwide Health Organization, sketchy drug provenance processes and systems have fueled a reality where “1 in 10 medical products in developing countries are substandard or falsified.” We’ve already discussed the solutions that blockchain disruptors are bringing to the drug provenance market; in this piece, we re-examine the vital work currently undertaken by the MediLedger project and the new kid on the block(chain), Chronicled. These innovative companies must be the starting shot for greater investment in blockchain solutions from big pharma companies looking to secure their supply chains.


MediLedger brings major pharma firms together to collaborate on securing supply chains


The MediLedger Project is a prime example of how a community can use distributed ledger technology to secure supply chains. The project has seen major pharmaceutical firms, including GSK, Novartis, and Pfizer, partner up to tackle the pharmaceutical industry’s distribution issues. MediLedger aims to use blockchain to “meet track and trace regulations, and to provide a step function improvement in the overall operation of the supply chain.” The idea is that by uniting multiple manufacturers and wholesalers within this project, it will create an “open and decentralized” environment for the blockchain-inspired technology to function at its highest ability to create an environment that is much more secure overall for the industry.


Distributed ledger technology can help the industry by using its information-storing capabilities to check identities as exchanges occur across the supply chain, making it much less likely drugs from unsecured sources could make their way to the market. As Chronicled CEO Ryan Orr described, “You can fortify them as much as you want, but a hacker will always find a clever way to sneak inside the castle… It’s [blockchain is] a distributed network, data is cryptographically secured, a breach in one node has no effect on the whole, and the consensus mechanism prevents malicious actors from tampering [with] the system.” So, the technology works on multiple levels to assist the necessary security needs of this industry.


The Mayo Clinic and Medicalchain team up to take action


MediLedger is just one example of a company using blockchain as a solution. Healthcare companies around the world are answering the call by their own means as well.


The Mayo Clinic, a top-quality renowned hospital in the US, partnered with UK blockchain startup Medicalchain in July of 2018. The main goal of this partnership focuses more on medical record security than drug distribution security, revealing another sector where this technology could prove invaluable. As CEO of Medicalchain, Dr. Abdullah Albeyatti explained, “The Mayo Clinic will provide their world-class healthcare and health IT expertise, while Medicalchain will provide our knowledge of blockchain and crypto.”


The solution they’re developing via the distributed ledger technology will allow patients full access over their electronic health records, giving them essential “ownership” of the information. Ownership will allow patients to grant and revoke access permission to any unsavory viewers that might want to access their personal information. Meanwhile, approved clinicians will be able to access and edit the data for patient use while also indicating the source and time of edits to ensure transparency.


Zuellig Pharma creates a new solution powered by SAP


Meanwhile, in Singapore just last year, Zuellig Pharma also got creative. Action was and still is imperative for Zuellig, as, in 2010, the World Health Organization reported that Asia accounts for the largest share of the trade in counterfeit drugs in the world. To help curb the situation, Zuellig found an ally in SAP.


The solution they created together is a smartphone app, powered by SAP’s blockchain technology, which allows users to scan the barcode of their medical products to verify their authenticity. Along with this use, the app can also alert manufacturers to cross-border transactions to stop them from coming into contact with regions with questionable or misaligned standards for medicine. The blockchain technology SAP contributed helps to ensure that the drugs maintain DSCSA regulations of being serial and traceable.


The Bottom Line: You simply cannot ignore blockchain anymore.


Distributed ledger tech is real; its uses in securing the pharmaceutical supply chains have now been proven and tested in multiple initiatives. MediLedger was one of the first projects on the map, and now more, like Zuellig Pharma and Mayo Clinic, have joined the mission. As more companies discover ways to employ this technology for the greater good, pharma enterprises that have yet to get on board are running out of excuses not to invest in blockchain for the sake of their security requirements.



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