Blockchain is a disruptive technology, enabling greater visibility into data records and security against data hacking through decentralized blocks linked by the cryptography technique. The pharma industry currently faces many challenges in the areas of supply chain management, drug safety, patient safety, clinical trial management, etc. The industry is now realizing the potential benefits of blockchain technology in helping it overcome some of these issues. However, the technology is still at a nascent stage and the industry is still learning and exploring opportunities to adopt blockchain.
The global pharma industry is often regarded as being conservative and slow moving. Thus, the application of a technology as disruptive as blockchain may not immediately appear to be beneficial for it. However, given the possible benefits of transparency and safety offered by this technology, the pharma industry — which is in need of such safety measures — is most likely to use blockchain as a powerful tool to record sensitive information such as patients’ medical records via an incorruptible and secure platform.
In simple terms, blockchain is a software providing a digital ledger system for data records, processing and validation by making groups of chronologically ordered blocks. These blocks are secured and linked using an advanced technology known as cryptography. Adoption of blockchain can completely replace the dependence on third parties for maintaining the database and enable real-time tracking of data for the pharmaceutical industry. Here we list some of the key applications of blockchain in the pharma industry.
Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Supply Chain Management
Most of the times, gaining clear visibility into end-consumer (patients) sales is not possible for pharma manufacturers majorly due to lack of compatible computer systems in place. This is one of the key issues of the pharmaceutical manufacturing supply chain. Using blockchain, companies can gain real-time data access and greater visibility throughout the supply chain, starting from the raw material/API suppliers’ product codes to the pharmacy stores dispensing prescription/OTC medicines to patients.
Blockchain can enable tracking of APIs used during the drug manufacturing process. Knowing and tracking the method of drug manufacturing correctly is a major issue with drug safety. Drugs manufactured with the wrong API can ultimately lead to patient harm. Blockchain technology's advanced features can extend a base for complete traceability of APIs and drugs from manufacturers to patients. This also helps to resolve any issues that are related to supply chain breakdown.
Forecasting demand and preparing inventories can be a difficult task for supply chain managers if they do not have visibility throughout the supply chain. To create an efficient product flow and enjoy steady financial gains, supply chain managers need better visibility into the wholesalers’ inventory. The serialized tracking feature of blockchain technology enables a highly efficient inventory management.
Clinical Trial Management
Many biotech companies are coming up with biologic drugs derived from different biological origins. To track the sources of thousands of such medicines, it is crucial to have a digital ledger in place that can identify and validate the path to get the biologics to market. Moreover, for the patients/subjects taking part in the clinical trial process, it is vital to get real-time updates on the outcomes. Blockchain can manage all of the clinical studies and their outcomes in a secure and decentralized platform that has greater visibility throughout the clinical study.
Looking at the possible benefits offered by blockchain — especially in the areas of real-time data access and enabling greater transparency with sound security — it is safe to assume that the pharma industry’s adoption of blockchain will only accelerate in the coming years.