At a working group meeting of the Hyperledger blockchain project today, a representative for global professional services company Accenture pitched the early phases of a project designed to fight the spread of counterfeit drugs using blockchain technology.
The details came during a meeting of the initiative's working group focused on project requirements.
Accenture's connected devices software lead Primrose Mbanefo, who works with its Internet of Things business development team and helps produce some of the company's proofs-of-concept, described how more efficient tracking of medicines using immutable data could improve accountability in the pharmaceutical industry.
"If we could get that data and prove that documents have not been tampered with we could say the drug actually came from the factory that we say it came from."
A key point up for debate at the meeting was the question of defining what exactly constitutes counterfeit activity in the pharmaceutical industry. According to Mbanefo, counterfeiters include both "rogue" manufacturers and established companies around the world that are failing to include the right amounts of active ingredients in medicines – or none at all.
"That would be cleared up if we had a supply chain we could actually trust," she said.
The idea of using distributed time-stamping to differentiate counterfeit drugs is a compelling one, given the success of the trade.
In the United Kingdom, where Mbanefo is based, a counterfeit medicines bust last June resulted in the seizure of 6.2 million doses or medical devices, worth £15.8m. According to the BBC report, a total of £51.6m of counterfeit medical goods around the world were confiscated during that one operation.
The control of the counterfeit drugs problem is just one supply chain-focused use case being looked at by members of the Hyperledger project.
Other potential applications of blockchain in supply chains include tracking the manufacture and assembly of computer components, assessing the quality of milk products shipped and sold and confirming the veracity of food labels.
Photo of pills via Shutterstock