The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the shortcomings in the Pharma and Medical supply chains and strategies. Blockchain may be the solution for the future of both sectors staying agile and secure.
While no one could anticipate the enormous impact of the coronavirus pandemic beforehand, many in the pharmaceutical and medical community did consider the next virus or superbug was on the horizon. Yet despite this, both Europe and North America were still dragging their feet in improving their supply chain strategies and technology.
Even the top clinical facilities in New York and San Francisco were struggling to keep up with the demands for PPE equipment and ventilators due to their inability to communicate with distributors and each other. Most hospitals in the UK and America quickly ran out of covers, outfits and face covers as the race to find and produce more for medical staff was on. In addition to this, there was an influx of people needing testing and a lack of adequate testing kits. This issue of suppliers and medical and pharmaceutical facilities showed the real need to improve the healthcare supply chains.
The Issues of Old
Enter, blockchain. The medical and pharmaceutical supply chains are incredibly complicated, especially since there are a host of varying regulatory agencies, suppliers, hospitals, insurance agencies, and pharmacies to choose from. While the coronavirus has had a horrific impact on the globe, it may have been an essential spark in helping the sector recognise the need for innovation and change. The need for a more agile and responsive industry is vital, moving forward. Producers need to be more creative and streamline their processes and blockchain may be the answer.
Blockchain is a type of technology as it allows a host of different networks to cooperate effectively and efficiently. It offers traceability in medicinal products & activities lifecycles by relaying information/data and sending it through an organisation rapidly. What is critical here, is that this helps highly regulated sectors such as pharmaceuticals and medicine decrease delay times for products. Blockchain also provides a transparent road map of the activities logged into the systems such as clinical trials, validation, and quality assurance. These also help build trust in how businesses operate and whether their strategies are cost-effective and safe.
One specific example of how a business can benefit from this is the MediLedger Network. This consortium focuses on pharma supply chains which includes industry giants like Pfizer, Gilead, Amgen, and Genetech. MediLedger implemented a product verification system which looked to make verifying the authenticity of a returned drug easier. For those of you who may not know this is a standard yet complicated process. Some 60 million units of sellable drugs are returned annually in the USA alone.
The amount of effort and time that goes into verifying these drugs before they are re-sold is significant. Before wholesalers can sell them, they first have to contact the manufacturers and identify their serial numbers, sometimes taking up to two days to complete. However, with blockchain, the wholesaler can make the same verification in less than a second using a barcode scanner. Not only does this make the process faster, and more manageable, it can help save lives, and provide greater options for hospitals and pharmacies.
Privacy & Protection
With the possibilities of blockchain, we can be prepared for the future. Issues such as obtaining PPE equipment and ventilators could have been done much more efficiently. Using the hindsight of coronavirus, it’s no surprise then why pharma and the medical sector are investing in blockchain. With this, however, come the concerns of privacy and protection of information. Many institutions and businesses need to be able to protect their data; luckily, blockchain can allow the expansion of knowledge and data while simultaneously offering the user the ability to protect it. The user can specify what data is accessible by which company, thus allowing only the essential content to be exchanged. This would be utilised mostly in situations which include clinical research and trials, something that will be crucial going forward with the coronavirus vaccine.
Blockchain would allow a user to differentiate access for other users through distributed ledger technology, which is essentially an unlimited number of identical copies of the ledger (data) that can be maintained by different users. These ledgers would also have measures to ensure that each new entry adheres to regulations and the appropriate processes are taken before a consensus on the data occurred. Blockchain is also incredibly secure from a hacking perspective. A significant advantage of utilising it for your supply chain demands is that it is decentralised and will drop any node of data if it recognises it as being manipulated from unauthorised personnel, without losing said data.
The Future of Pharma and Medicine
While it may not be cheap to switch to blockchain technology, it will be the smart choice for the future. We cannot predict when the next global health crisis will occur, but with effective and efficient technology at our disposal, we may increase our reaction time and help save lives. It can also help our day-to-day operations run more smoothly, taking unnecessary burdens off certain areas in the sector. Infusing blockchain can mean an advanced supply chain that works in harmony and reduces time and costs spent on processes.
The coronavirus has allowed both the Pharma and Medical sector to see the shortcomings in their supply chains and strategy. Blockchain may be integral for a more agile and ready future.