How can Blockchain resolve issues pertaining to fake drugs?
The issue of fake drugs or medications though not equally highlighted than narcotic drugs is equally or more life threatening than the former. Sometimes a cheaply available version of a mediation is the option for many patients especially in low socio-economic and educated societies. As per an estimate by World Health Organisation (WHO), 1 in 10 medical products circulated in low-to-middle income countries is fake or substandard. It makes it very hard to impossible to track the movement of fake drugs. These eventually find their way to economies with low regulation and easy to pierce social and medical systems in place.
Countries with inefficient producing systems, lack of product availability in regular market also pushes certain countries to fill this vacuum with drugs in the black market. However, irrespective of the country, this menace is rearing its ugly head. “Forty-two percent of the reports of suspect medical products come from Africa, with 21 percent each from Europe and the Americas”. The need of the hour is to find a distinction for the common public so they can be educated and learn to distinguish between real and counterfeits.
Promulgation of laws from the manufacturing lifecycle to sales is one of the ways. The U.S.A follows the The Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA) which has built an “electronic interoperable system to trace certain prescription drugs as they are distributed in the United States”. However, such a system may not be feasible for most countries.
Here step in the latest technologies of Blockchain and IoT which have the potential to track every drug manufactured with the help of a barcode or QR code. Blockchain due to its open source platforms such as Hyperledger 1.0 can be changed to an enterprise level software which can be used to create a node of inspection of any product. Blocks of information -immutable and verified are recorded at every stage of packaging – primary, secondary and tertiary. Each time the drug moves from one link to another, it can be tracked and checked for its authenticity.
While tracking was possible earlier as well, the vast data of information will be supported by blockchain in an easy manner with a decentralised platform of blockchain. Deloitte in its reportnoted, this technology could make “electronic medical records more efficient, disintermediated, and secure”.
Blockchain wins over current record keeping and barcoding databases as they fail to address issues of security, privacy and interoperability of the complete eco system. Yet, one needs to be cognisant that implementing blockchain successfully will require several economic, organization, technical and behavioural changes across verticals. This will have to start from governments passing motions to accept this technology and passing relevant and complete laws for managing blockchains specially for public records.