Applying blockchain technology to medicine traceability

Blockchain wordleA new project aims to use blockchain technology to improve the security of the pharmaceutical supply chain.

The project - still at the planning stages but outlined at a meeting of Hyperledger working group last week - envisages using blockchain tracking and time stamps to make it easy to establish exactly when and where a medicine was produced.

There is increasing interest in the use of blockchain - a constantly-growing, publicly-accessible 'ledger' that records transactions in a tamper- and revision-proof way - to fight counterfeiting and diversion in multiple industries.

Backed by the Linux Foundation, Hyperledger is a collaborative effort created to advance blockchain technology by" identifying and addressing important features for a cross-industry open standard for distributed ledgers that can transform the way business transactions are conducted globally."

The counterfeit medicines scenario was presented at the latest meeting but Accenture's Primrose Mbanefo.

While blockchain is best known as the technology that underpins the Bitcoin system, it can equally be applied to recording the movement of goods through the supply chain, with each transaction verified via the blockchain network.

The provenance of the product and its components as well as any transfer of ownership is recorded in the distributed ledger and can be verified by anyone with access - making it easy to track and identify fake, diverted or stolen goods.

In effect, the technology can provide digital tamper-evidence that operates alongside physical safety features, according to Mbanefo, who told the meeting that the approach could help tackle both falsified/fraudulent medicines and substandard drugs by making it clear exactly where a product was manufactured.

The counterfeit medicines project is one of several 'use cases' in play at the Hyperledger working group, which along with Accenture includes the likes of Cisco, Intel, IBM, Blockstream and Bloomberg, amongst others.

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