All of us working in the pharmaceutical supply chain should take a moment to appreciate the irony that blockchain technology – which is used to buy and sell most of the world’s counterfeit drugs – is now being touted as a solution to protect us from … counterfeit drugs.
Whether blockchain is the perfect fix to keeping counterfeit products out of the drug supply chain is a question LSPediA is exploring in our new blockchain pilot program.
Blockchain technology allows digital information to be distributed in a continuously updated digital ledger. It was invented to secure the cryptocurrency Bitcoin which, in another bit of irony, is what’s used to pay for most counterfeit drugs.
Blockchain and the black market
The market for all this counterfeiting – estimated to be more than $100 billion annually – is conducted in the open but anonymously on the dark web – a part of the Internet available only to users with special (and legal) software. While the marketplace, participants, and transactions aren’t hidden, all the entities and players remain anonymous. This keeps counterfeit transactions off the radar of the legitimate supply chain.
Clearly, many of these dark web entities are either players in the global secure supply chain or have a relationship with secure supply chain entities. They move counterfeit products along with authentic products and inject the counterfeits into the mix when moving drugs into the “secure” supply chain.
Right now, tech developers and others are investing a lot of thought, time, and energy examining the viability of using blockchain to achieve DSCSA compliance, such as sustainability, transaction visibility, transaction immutability in exception handling, and others.
Blockchain: Boon or boondoggle?
Meanwhile, I’ve been staunchly in the camp of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
My initial reaction was that if blockchain offers nothing more than another repository solution, it’s one mired in security risks, an inability to manage exceptions, and a host of other problems that would make it a huge distraction from the serious work of putting serialization and traceability in place by 2023.
But if there is true value in using blockchain to innovate the way the drug supply chain works, then it’s well worth exploring. That’s why we at LSPediA placed our own blockchain pilot program on our 2019 roadmap. We’ll let the chips fall where they may, and when they do, we’ll be glad to share our results.
About LSPediA – Life Sciences Solutions
LSPediA is a leading supply chain software provider for the pharmaceutical industry. LSPediA’s serialization solution RxChain enables pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesale distributors, dispensers to manage data, distribute products, and track inventory at the serialized level. LSPediA’s Verification Router Service enables authorized trading partners to authenticate serialized products, verify returns, and deter counterfeiting.