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BLOCKCHAIN IN PHARMACY

Many technologies have emerged as a result of the digital revolution that may help business improve their performance, transparency, and security. One of these inventions is blockchain.

Health care and the pharmaceutical supply chain, in particular, might be transformed by blockchain technology.

The big pharma industry is presently dealing with pharma supply chain challenges, and blockchain provides a variety of potential benefits. This emerging technology allows for decentralized transaction recording and tracking, as well as greater overall efficiency and elimination of unneeded middlemen.

First, blockchain enables an immutable data of accessible pharmaceuticals and equipment, preventing the acquisition of expired or counterfeit drugs.

Second, by reliably documenting transaction data between the hospital and the supplier, blockchain technology has the potential to improve cost efficiency and medical system accountability.

Third, blockchain infrastructure would make it easier for health care institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device makers to share information, allowing providers and suppliers to have a more effective feedback loop.

Pharmaceutical supply chain management might benefit from distributed ledger technology in terms of legislation, logistics, and patient safety.

Meanwhile, the system is mostly connected with cryptocurrencies, but pharmaceutical businesses are beginning to invest in this asset since the solutions will provide multiple benefits in the long term.

An Overview of the Pharmaceutical Industry

The pharmaceutical industry is confronted with a number of issues that must be addressed in the near future since the worldwide pandemic has demonstrated how disruptive these issues are to the smooth operation of the organizations involved in the process.

Based on the numerous benefits that the technology offers, blockchain in pharma has a broad range of applications.

Companies have begun to address these issues, and here is how the answer may assist them in transforming their organizations.

Improvements to the Supply Chain

One of the main difficulties for businesses is the improvement of the pharma supply chain in the pharma industry. In this case, the solution is advantageous since it can ensure rapid and secure transactions all over the world.

Companies can also utilize this resource to develop traceability trials and active pharmaceutical ingredients across the entire supply chain. It implies that everyone from producers to customers may check the drug's source, development process, quality, and delivery circumstances in a secure setting.

Furthermore, because this form of central databases are distributed, the solution encourages supply chain transparency and supply chain security act. The parties participating in the supply chain should all adhere to the system's set procedure in order to evaluate, exchange, and update data integrity and ensure that the data is accurate and timely.

Because the authorized parties can control the whole process of drug creation, the platform will assist corporations to limit the number of scams identified on the market.

According to research, one out of every 10 pharmaceuticals on the market is fake. In third world nations, the figure is significantly higher.

As a result, the introduction of distributed systems will benefit society on a worldwide scale by improving corporate performance and product quality. It would lead to better medical treatments and a reduction in fatal situations in the future. It will also result in the enforcement of trust and openness.

Clinical trials

The solution has the potential to improve clinical trial outcomes. The platform's nature is immutable, guaranteeing that clinical trials and procedures are preserved and strictly followed.

The system remains safe since it is dispersed among multiple stakeholders and decoding the block's hash is nearly difficult. Even if a section of the architecture is hacked, the data will not be lost because it is stored by other parties.

As a result, clinical trial data may be kept private and accurate. Furthermore, parties might develop public registries to have access to clinical trial outcomes.

Patient data management

In the future, it is expected that blockchain based system would be able to simplify the administration and data sharing of patient data among various providers, ranging from insurance companies to research groups.

Furthermore, a platform will act as a database for tracking and storing patient data, allowing companies throughout the healthcare system to access information using a single record.

Inventory management

A business will have greater control and supply chain management of its inventory if technology is properly integrated into the supply chain. It may, for example, be automated to send out requests for more in demand medical goods.

Counterfeit drugs prevention

Blockchain's potential uses in the pharmaceutical industry are already being investigated. Take, for example, the BlockRX effort, which was created to solve the problem of medication drug supply chain integrity by utilizing a distributed ledger technology to support and manage the drug development lifecycle.

If a drug product shipment is interrupted or goes missing, the information maintained on the shared ledger allows all parties to quickly track and trace it down and establish who touched it last.

With blockchain's inherent ability to track and trace drug provenance and create an immutable record of the lifecycle of a drug and how it was handled, this open pharma industry initiative addresses the challenges the pharmaceutical industry faces, both in sourcing and distributing drugs.

Because the distributed ledger is open to the public, it will be feasible to track medication counterfeit products all the way back to the source of the raw materials required to produce it. Counterfeiters could still copy barcodes in an attempt to pass prescription drugs off as legitimate but the ledger will flag and permanently record suspicious activity.

The ledger's decentralized nature would make it difficult for any one entity to possess the ledger and alter the data to their own benefit.

The Benefits of Blockchain in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

Blockchain technology can assist ensure that every player in the pharmaceutical companies and supply chain has access to trusted, accurate data and a single dependable version of the truth. With data, it may improve the supply chain's end to end visibility. By providing all parties with the same, real time, accurate perspective of the supply chain, blockchain technology can help to break down barriers between them. This is a critical aspect in guaranteeing the durability of industrial and supply chains.

The Challenges of Adopting Blockchain Technology

A constant flow of material and data across the manufacturing technology and supply chain is one of the issues with data. Data flows vertically in such circumstances, one partner up and one partner down. Trading partners would make a request through the supply chain for an end to end traceability.

The electronic interoperable system is then returned to the asking entity by each partner, which is slow, inefficient, and may be obsolete by the time the information is received by the seeking company.

Because of challenges with trust and supply chain security act in exchanging data and access to systems with other organizations, the systems employed by various organizations may be separated and not communicate with one another.

Because the information of each transaction or record is clearly available to all members of the supply chain, blockchain allows for near real time data access.

Furthermore, as previously mentioned, as organizations check the validity of the record, blockchain has the benefit of needing no one central owner of all information, so organizations do not need to disclose their internal systems or proprietary information; just the record or transaction to be verified has to be shared openly across all parties in the supply chain, easing any worries about data and system trust and security.

R&D Application

Technology can also assist in overcoming roadblocks in the R&D process. It has the potential to improve drug research and development by facilitating collaboration between industry and academic institutions, as well as charitable organizations.

For example, smart contracts will shorten the time it takes to sell a new pharmaceutical since corporations will not be required to invest more resources in the process.

Furthermore, the technology's security provides benefits for intellectual property protection, guaranteeing that fresh research data and discoveries are not compromised.

Considerations for Blockchain Implementation in Pharmaceuticals

Businesses in the pharmaceutical industry and other industries should understand why they need to adopt the blockchain solution and how blockchain development will measure their success.

Before beginning the implementation process, businesses should think about a few factors.

Analyze opportunities:

Look at current technology implementation possibilities, particularly those in other industries such as banking and insurance. You should understand how effective the present use cases are and select the one that is best appropriate for your firm.

Access resources:

The development and implementation procedures are not simple. They need expert knowledge and expertise. If your organization lacks the necessary resources, try recruiting external teams with platform development experience. There are many vendors that provide their services, and you may employ them from anywhere in the world.

However, the major needs for vendors in this scenario should be dependability, resource availability, past portfolios, and references from former clients. Do not be fooled by low pricing; you may end up with a low-quality product that does not meet your demands.

Determine the areas for improvement:

Determine which aspects of the organization require attention. This step entails examining your requirements and structuring them for technological implementation. Determine your own use case, and it will assist you in defining the objectives you want to achieve, as well as guide you through the following steps.

Develop a Proof of Concept:

At this stage, it's critical to evaluate whether the job is doable and functional. Because it is a sketch or outline of how the solution may be effectively implemented in your organization's context, the PoC will lead you through the rest of the implementation process.

Choose the correct platform:

Currently, there are various blockchain networks where you may begin implementing the technology, such as Ethereum, Corda, and Hyperledger.

Build and Test the Solution:

It's critical to thoroughly test the solution and observe how it works in practice.

Deployment:

The solution must now be deployed on the blockchain network.

The use of blockchain in medicines is only getting started, and there is still a lot to learn. A well-developed platform, on the other hand, may alter how businesses interact and collaborate with one another, as well as how they offer services to clients.

As a result, businesses should think about this option and begin analyzing how it might help them enhance their workflow. Healthcare IT solutions and software service providers understand how to build and deploy solutions that improve enterprise performance in the sector.

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How to Understand Supply Chain

From the first step of acquiring raw materials through the ultimate delivery of the product or service to end user, a supply chain is a whole system of creating and delivering a product or service. The supply chain lays out all parts of the manufacturing process, including the actions that take place at each level, information that is transferred, natural resources that are converted into usable materials, human resources, and other components that go into the final product or service.

One of the most important phases in doing an external analysis in the strategic planning process is to map out a supply chain. The importance of accurately sketching out the supply chain lies in the fact that it aids a firm in defining its own market and deciding where it wants to go in the future. A corporation must frequently decide whether to operate a single line of business or expand into other related or unrelated sectors when formulating corporate-level plans.

Each stage of a supply chain, such as raw material extraction and manufacture, is effectively its own business. The supply chain allows a firm to understand those involved in each level, and so offers some insight into the attractiveness or competitiveness of industries that the company may wish to enter in the future.

The Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

Blockchain has the potential to significantly enhance supply chains. While blockchain cannot account for all possible scenarios, it can significantly reduce the risk of chain mistakes. Many players and stages are engaged in pharmaceutical supply chains, ranging from API providers through drug manufacturers, packaging and distribution businesses, and regulators, all the way to hospitals, pharmacies, and finally, the patient.

With so many intermediates, counterfeit drugs are more likely to infiltrate the distribution chain, making it more difficult to detect and verify authenticity. Due to the nature of blockchain, it will be able to give evidence of product provenance as well as increased drug supply chain security act.

Improving transparency and traceability across the temperature-controlled pharmaceutical supply chain

Sonoco ThermoSafe is a prominent global provider of pharmaceutical distribution temperature guarantee packaging. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and carriers will be able to collaborate on the safe distribution of biologics, vaccines, and other temperature-sensitive items using PharmaPortalTM, a vendor-neutral, industry-scale blockchain platform.

Built on IBM Blockchain Transparent Supply, the freely regulated network will focus on end to end traceability and provide an audit record of environmental status monitoring. Sonoco's goal as a network convener is to provide a permissioned platform for the industry that will increase visibility and transparency throughout the pharmaceutical supply chains.

Despite advancements, inefficiencies still exist in the cold chain monitoring pharmaceutical supply chain. The requirement for reliable, end to end visibility of pharmaceutical shipments, conditions, and documentation are critical due to multiple handoffs across continents by contractual and sub-contracted handling agents. This open industry effort addresses the issues the pharmaceutical companies have, both in sourcing and delivering pharmaceuticals, by using blockchain's natural ability to track and trace drug provenance and produce an indelible record of a drug's lifespan and how it was handled.

The Significance of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Compared to Other Supply Chains

The average pharmaceutical company is significantly more complex today than it was during the blockbuster period when there were fewer medicines, more constant demand, and higher profits. Pharma firms require supply chain models that support the strategic goals of their various business segments, such as agility, service, or cost effectiveness, in order to satisfy the industry's expanding complexity and the changing needs of their many business sectors.

Pharmaceutical supply systems are becoming increasingly complicated. As corporations aim to counteract falling margins by growing into other sectors such as generics, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, health services, companion devices, and many more categories, prescription pharmaceutical companies are typically just one component of the business. At the same time, corporations are depending increasingly on external partners for manufacturing, selling, and other services, and they are employing direct-to-consumer, direct-to-pharmacy, and other new distribution channels. In addition, the business is progressively becoming more worldwide.

Evolving challenges

The pressures brought on by these fundamental shifts tend to touch all parts of the pharma company, and opposing objectives can lead to conflicts of interest. Country managers expect better levels of service. Finance seeks to reduce costs and increase capital. Leaders in the supply chain strive to simplify the network topology and leverage external providers wherever possible. The operations manager marches along the path of continual improvement. A more strategic approach to supply chain design may improve cross-functional alignment and serve as a competitive distinction for the company.

The pharmaceutical business faces particular constraints that have hampered previous efforts to strengthen supply chains. Quality standards, for example, should never be compromised for the sake of cost reductions, and regulatory constraints can discourage certain efforts that could increase economies of scale. Furthermore, to prevent running out of life-saving medications, most pharmaceutical companies would prefer to oversupply. However, in today's competitive business world, firms must rethink the established order and seek out new and inventive methods to stay ahead of the competition even if this involves making difficult decisions and significant adjustments. Pharmaceutical companies must take advantage of growing markets, new distribution channels, and new areas of development that need cost efficiency and agility, such as generics, vaccines, and over-the-counter medicines. At the same time, success necessitates the capacity to ensure that physicians and patients have access to tailored specialty patient care and vaccination goods.

The pharmaceutical supply chain must be lean, low-cost, and adaptable in order to thrive, without losing product quality or service. Unfortunately, as compared to other industries, the traditional pharmaceutical supply chain with its core processes of acquiring, creating active pharmaceutical ingredients, manufacturing, and distribution is inadequate. It reveals flaws in key performance areas such as cost of goods sold, overall equipment efficacy, inventory turnover, and even customer service.

Lessons from other industries

Other sectors, particularly those that have established a thorough grasp of the demands of their business segments and coordinated their supply chains to create competitive advantage, may teach pharma businesses a lot.

Pharma supply chains must enhance how they manufacture and distribute finished goods, develop new channel strategies, and boost revenue and margin performance to address current industry challenges and raise overall competitiveness. This ambitious plan necessitates excellence in three key requirements:

1. Service:

Supply chains must continue to guarantee that the correct items are delivered to the correct location at the correct time. This is the most critical supply-chain requirement for some areas, with cost-effectiveness and agility being secondary factors. Pharma businesses should arrange their supply networks to prioritize product availability when this is the case. An examination of demand trends will disclose which items have consistent, predictable demand and which have more erratic demand, necessitating capacity and inventory expenditures. Companies may focus on providing better speed, convenience, and other services to their clients after product availability is established.

2. Cost effective

Most pharmaceutical businesses have already made significant cost reductions in their supply chains, but success in some areas necessitates significantly lower upstream and downstream costs. Aim for standardized procedures, lean approaches, faster inventory turnover, greater capacity utilization, and larger-scale advantages if you want to save even more money.

3. Agility

Some industries necessitate a highly responsive supply network that can respond swiftly to changes in the market. Pharma businesses may use this agility to accelerate product launches, prolong the life cycle of current drugs, enter new markets faster, and respond more swiftly to changes in demand and new business possibilities. Effective planning and scheduling, fast changeover of production lines, smart inventory management, production postponement, purchasing from various suppliers, and external production capacity for more flexibility are all key elements that lead to agility.

Business and supply chain executives may obtain the insights needed to identify which sacrifices should be made for which goods, to align the often-divergent agendas of R&D, operations, and marketing, and to deliver on these essential priorities with a greater grasp of business requirements.

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Important Take Homes

Immutability:

Blockchains are immutable, indicating that any data that is added to the ledger cannot be changed or withdrawn. While this is advantageous for data accuracy, it also poses a significant difficulty since, because blockchains are irreversible, there is no mechanism to repair inconsistencies. Operators doing physical activities in the medication supply chain, for example, might still make mistakes while entering data into the ledger. As a result, even if the faults are recognized, they cannot be fixed. This can have unintended repercussions in the healthcare supply chain. For example, if the manufacturer enters inaccurate information for a counterfeit medicine Lot, it may cause problems later when it reaches the pharmacy, where a pharmacist may administer a prescription to a patient wrongly.

Data Privacy:

Although immutability is seen as one of the primary benefits of blockchains, it may collide with new legislation addressing data storage difficulties. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, for example, requires that organizations accurately control where and how data is stored because the people who provide it have the right to modify or delete it at any time, and if actions are not taken in accordance with their requests, the organization may face severe penalties. Patients in healthcare supply chains may reject to have their data saved on the blockchain indefinitely, and they may be able to sue the healthcare institution.

Scalability:

Individual nodes on the blockchain must execute every transaction on the whole network, which ensures the system's security and verification but restricts its scalability. However, substantial research is underway to solve this issue. Sharding and Plasma, for example, are two Ethereum scaling solutions that minimize the requirement for every Ethereum node to execute every transaction on the network. This may not be a concern in healthcare supply chains if production is done in small to moderate numbers. However, if the counterfeit medicines are produced in huge quantities, the procedure will be complex and time-consuming.

Efficiency:

The smart contract's code, as well as the consensus method used to validate and confirm a transaction, have a significant impact on the blockchain solution's efficiency. The first defines the cost of the implementation and execution process, while the second determines the amount of energy consumed. Because the healthcare supply chain comprises numerous transactions, it's critical that the smart contracts be correctly built so that it can run swiftly and efficiently.

Conclusion

The pharmaceutical sector is one of the slowest-evolving in the world. We talked about all of the issues that the pharmaceutical sector is now facing.

The majority of issues can be resolved with blockchain technology. The improvement in returning medicine authenticity, improved compliance when it comes to delicate pharmaceuticals, automation, and better clinical trials are some of the most significant uses of blockchain in pharma. Inventory management and clinical trial data will be the final two enhancements.

Blockchain is already being used by top names in the business to better their work processes. Pharma firms have a great chance to exploit blockchain to its full potential here.

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