Retail giant Walmart has joined MediLedger, a blockchain pharma supply chain project to tackle the problem of counterfeit drugs. The move assumes importance in view of the recent decision by Pfizer, a pharma major to join MediLedger.
MediLedger should enable pharma and retail businesses to deal with a key problem facing the global health care industry, which is the problem of counterfeit drugs. The dangerous business of counterfeit drugs flourishes due to inadequate transparency in the pharma supply chain.
Criminals make huge profits from counterfeiting drugs, where they take advantage of reputation built up by pharma majors over decades. They produce exact copies of the drugs, without any regards to their quality and effectiveness.
The problem affects generics as well as prescription drugs, and Antibiotics face this problem to a great extent. World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1 in 10 medical products in low-income countries are false!
While sub-optimal law enforcement in poorer countries makes the problem more acute there, more affluent countries aren’t immune to counterfeit drugs. The problem will likely have far-reaching consequences since the large-scale use of low-quality medicine will increase antibiotic resistance.
Pharma is a global industry with suppliers spread across vast geographies, making it hard to maintain transparency in the supply chain. The existing technology solutions have not been able to sufficiently combat the problem of counterfeit drugs. New solutions are imperative.
MediLedger: A blockchain pharma supply chain solution
Blockchain, with its decentralization, transparency, and immutability can provide a solution to the problem of counterfeit drugs. The technology uses digital signatures, data encryption, and consensus algorithm to protect data, moreover, tamper-proof smart contracts can automate contract administration in a transparent way.
MediLedger is a blockchain supply chain assurance solution for the pharma industry, and it’s from Chronicled, an American blockchain start-up. It’s a consortium of organizations developing a blockchain system, which will serve as a trusted data-sharing platform among pharma industry stakeholders.
MediLedger will simplify pharma supply chain processes like contract reconciliation. This will obviously bring benefit to the pharma industry stakeholders, by eliminating cost.
Walmart plans to pilot its blockchain pharma supply chain project using MediLedger, and the retail giant will work with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this project. Apart from Walmart and Pfizer, McKesson and Amerosource Bergen are the other big players to join the MediLedger consortium.
Intel had earlier unveiled a separate plan to use blockchain for tracking the supply chain for addictive medicine. Outside of the pharma domain, Walmart is already using blockchain for supply chain assurance, as the company uses it to track vegetable supplies.
Can blockchain pharma supply chain solutions tackle counterfeit drugs?
The willingness on the part of giants like Walmart and Pfizer on promising projects like MediLedger could boost the global fight against counterfeit drugs. We need to wait and watch how these organizations succeed together.