Last week, Pharmaceutical Processing, published an article I wrote on the use of blockchain to provide greater transparency in the tracking of medicine. Pharma has been pursuing supply chain serialisation for many years. Blockchain enhances this in several ways:
- Creation of an immutable, portable record of all hand-offs between parties that is not held hostage by any one vendor or party
- Complete, portable chain-of-custody useful for every from regulatory compliance to management of product recalls
- All built on a technology that is easier to validate–from a regulatory computer systems validations (CSV) perspective
The last point is the most domain-specific for pharma and can be controversial if you are not familiar with the underlying mathematics that make blockchain linkage immutable. I am not arguing that blockchain-based systems do not need CSV. Instead, I am arguing that validation is easier. Anyone who has tried to prove that a mutable database cannot be tampered with without an audit trail knows how hard this “proof” is. On the other hand, one can cite reams of mathematical papers and testimony showing that is (statistically) impossible to tamper with the links of a blockchain (a hurdle higher than the statistical margin to show efficacy of a drug in a clinical trial).
Finally, this article highlights an additional use of smart contracts to trigger proof of receipt. This is not just useful for payments but for things like proof that medicine was delivered to an end party. Two immediate uses that come to mind are:
- Tracing charitable donations all the way down to the receipt by the place that needs the medicine
- Tracing delivery to a drug to a patient on a clinical trial (as an additional means of tracking against error).
You can read the article here.