Blockchain technology is becoming a fast-growing platform with several sectors embracing it with open arms. Many government and private corporations have pledged to invest in the technology to enhance its potential capabilities for their respective sectors.
Technology giant IBM has been one of the forerunners of blockchain activities for quite some time now. The company has collaborated with governments of countries like Australia, Canada and Argentina to develop blockchain based solutions for federal government departments to increase transparency and speed. Recently the company also launched its own blockchain based global payments platform World Wire, which is officially operational in 72 countries, working with over 47 fiat currencies.
IBM is now reportedly working on a permissioned blockchain network to combat the evil of counterfeit medicines in African countries. The platform is being developed by Haifa, IBM largest lab division outside the US. The company claims that the platform will allow it to track medications all the way back to the manufacturers, ensuring distributors that they have genuine drugs.
The platform will expectedly track and restrict the constant flow of fake medicines being smuggled into the African nations. IBM will be partnering with various African firms to deploy the newly developed blockchain network. The network will enable all participants in the legit supply chain to track and verify the authenticity of all medicines. The network is based on a permissioned distributed ledger, however, it will have a user-friendly mobile interface, which will enable participants to authenticate all transactions of the shared ledger.
The African continent has the most complex drugs and medicine supply chain than other regions. On average, a medicine changes 30 hands before reaching the destined pharmacy. This complexity makes the region the most appropriate place for IBM to test the blockchain network. Africa has been suffering from the evil of counterfeit medicines for decades. Prior to this, several measures have been taken to tackle the issue, none of them was successful. However, blockchain has the potential to eliminate the problem, because of its core properties like transparency, immutability, and lightning speed in data sharing.
The pharma industry across the globe faces the issue of fake medicines. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), the global counterfeit drug market is worth more than $200 billion. Supply of counterfeit or substandard medicines in Africa is as big as 30% of the total pharma supply. WHO also maintains a record that over 100,000 deaths in the continent were due to the use of such medicines.
Majority of the counterfeit drugs in supply are imported into the African countries. Most of these imported drugs are manufactured in China and India. Astonishingly, India alone contributes to 35% of the total fake medicines being supplied globally. However, the supply from India is likely to come down, as the Indian government has already started to crack down manufacturers of fake medicine, also by applying blockchain technology.
Indian government’s think-tank division, the NITI Ayog entered in a collaboration with the US-based software behemoth Oracle to conduct blockchain based trials on drug distribution in the country. Apart from India, other nations are also integrating blockchain into the systems in the pharma industry. UAE based telecom giant du, launched its a cloud-based blockchain network, to counter the issue of counterfeit medicines. Similar efforts are being taken by countries in Europe and South America.
Blockchain space has been hugely benefitted by the entry of companies like IBM, which have capital backing to conduct research and development on the platform, which is yielding overwhelming results. Apart from IBM, other business stalwarts who have embraced blockchain include TCS, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and JPMorgan. European software giant SAP has launched a blockchain based drug distribution tracking system.