Medicine has been more than a synonym to the assurance of healing. Have a fever? Here is a paracetamol tablet. Have allergies? Here is a dose of cetirizine. Administering pills have always served the purpose of alleviating diseases. These life-saving drugs are not affordable for everyone, especially those which are from famous pharmaceutical companies and come with a heavy price tag.
The Cost-Effective Bypass
The purpose of medicines is to save lives, but the big pharma companies have made a business out of this. They end up charging hefty amounts in return of fixing diseases. This is where the role of generic medicines comes into play.
‘A generic drug is a medication created to be the same as an already marketed brand-name drug in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics, and intended use. These similarities help to demonstrate bioequivalence, which means that a generic medicine works in the same way and provides the same clinical benefit as its brand-name version.’, as defined by the FDA.
It implies that generic drugs offer the same functionality as the mainstream branded pills, but cost mere pennies.
Life-Saving Drugs or Life Taking Drugs
All thanks to the greed of humans, the medicines administered in the belief to save lives, at times turns into life-consuming drugs. As per the report of WHO, 1 in 10 medical products in developing countries is substandard or falsified. This means medicines have no or wrong active ingredients, or presence of chalk, cornstarch and potato, instead of medicinal salts. And the result of consuming these medicines is the death of millions of people every year. Out of these millions, over 7,00,000 deaths are attributed due to fake drugs for tuberculosis and malaria alone.
Counterfeit Drug Accidents (2015) Source
While greed is the cause of all these deaths, the horrifying reality is the fact that both generic and innovator medicines are falsified. These falsifications range from the most expensive cancer drugs to cheapest painkillers.
The Criteria of Risk
People now are skeptical of buying branded medicines, due to the counterfeit drugs out in the market. And when it comes to generic medicines, it is generally a big no.
A heap of Counterfeit Drugs being destroyed in China.
Not only the developing countries, the counterfeit drugs have also plagued countries like North America and Europe as well. The problem of fake drugs is growing and gradually engulfing people across continents. With the interconnection of the world through internet, today the sinister are powerful than ever, connected and having access to the global market place.
Is there a solution?
While corruption lies in almost every economy, the pharma supply chain is crippled by its loopholes ans lack of supervision. This lack encourages sinister to tamper with the chain and introduce counterfeit material. These include the addition of adulterated material in the salt combination, replacement of salts during manufacturing, swapping drugs during transit and more.
The disruptive Blockchain technology presents a foolproof solution to this recurring problem. Here is how:
Securing Traceability: The counterfeit of drugs is mainly due to the loopholes in the traceability aspect. Furthermore, it is rather near to impossible for all participants to access the information, considering the silos of stakeholders that they work in. Blockchain offers a closed ledger system, enabling trustless exchange of information between peers and keeping them up to date with the status of all their consignments. With Blockchain is the system, the identification, tracking and tracing of medicines can reach up to the level of a single tablet.
Drug Counterfeiting Prevention: The integration of Blockchain in pharma supply chain will bring the required transparency to the network. Leveraging the trustless attribute of this technology, all the stakeholders will be able to trust the information shared on the ledger, with no option to tamper with the data. Integration of Blockchain in track and trace will arrest the introduction of counterfeit medicines and additives.
Data Integrity: Reiterating on the fact that the data recorded on Blockchain is immutable in nature, the transactional data of the medicines and its related records will become tamper-proof with the introduction of Blockchain, to prevent data from being compromised.
Smart Compliances: Blockchain based smart contracts will facilitate healthcare regulators and stakeholders to be at par with the set compliances.
The underlying technology of Bitcoins holds the potential to change the world for better and this is one of the major use cases, where Blockchain will prove extremely beneficial. Its incorporation will help masses to believe in the authenticity of generic drugs, saving lives and alleviating diseases.