What is Blockchain?
Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology. In contrast to a traditional ledger held and protected by a trusted party, the distributed ledger can be synchronized, replicated, and shared across multiple institutions, sites, and countries. All of this happens by a consensual mechanism, and any changes made in the ledger are displayed simultaneously in real-time.
Block in the Blockchain
Each new piece of data that is digitally recorded into the blockchain is referred to as a “block.” A hash function links this newly added block to the previous one on the chain, thus ensuring the blockchain’s immutability.
Cryptography in Blockchain
The cryptography techniques used in blockchain come from the “hash,” which cannot be reverse-engineered. This implies that any piece of data added to the blockchain cannot be deleted or changed. This is because to change the block contents; alterations will have to be made in all of the other blocks present in the blockchain.
Nature of the Blockchain
Because of cryptography, the blockchain requires alterations in at least 51% of the blocks added in the blockchain. This feature provides additional security as compared to the manual ledger that is controlled by only one central party.
Designs of Blockchain
Two main designs of blockchain are known i.e.
- Public permission-less blockchain
- Private-permissioned blockchains.
Public Permission-less Blockchain
In this type of blockchain, every participant can take part in the transaction. The data in this blockchain is replicated on all the nodes, and all of them are treated the same way.
Private Permissioned Blockchain
In these blockchain designs, only selected participants are allowed to participate in the transaction, and data is shared on pre-determined nodes.
Pharmaceutical Supply Chain and Blockchain
A pharmaceutical supply chain has many stages and stakeholders involved. The chain starts from the API provider and extends up to drug manufacturers, packaging and distribution companies, regulators, hospitals, pharmacies, and finally, the patient.
With all of these links, it is tough to ensure authenticity. Also, many counterfeit medicines can get included in the supply chain. With a solution such as Blockchain, proof of origin of these medicines can be provided efficiently, thus ensuring greater security.
COVID-19 Vaccines Supply Chain
With the advent of COVID-19 vaccines, the whole world is seeing extensive immunization programs. COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out, and masses are getting vaccinated regularly. But there are some problems associated with this vaccine program.
For example, many countries have developed their vaccines, and each of them requires different storage and handling requirements. For many requirements, maintenance of a specific temperature is mandatory through all the supply chain stages, i.e., distribution, transition, and storage in hospitals and vaccination centers.
Also, doses of different vaccines are not interchangeable; therefore, for their second dose, the patients must receive the same one as their first dose.
To counter these complexities, a well-established supply chain must be ensured for the COVID-19vaccines to work with their 100% efficacies.
Role of Blockchain in COVID-19 Vaccination Supply Chain
Blockchain can play a significant role in the Covid-19 vaccination supply chain in the following ways:
Tracking of Vaccination across the Supply Chain
By allowing identifiers such as barcodes to the products, blockchain offers reliable end-to-end vaccine tracking and monitoring throughout the supply chain.
Preventing Counterfeiting Vaccinations to Enter into the Supply Chain
By adding scanning barcodes at each touchpoint, all the information can be made available to the regulators and the manufacturers. Also, parties with limited infrastructures, such as hospitals and pharmacies, can use a barcode scanner for verifying the drug’s authenticity.
For example, a blockchain-barcode system bokode1 comprises a visual data tag of a width of 3mm and can store a thousand times more information than a standard barcode. A typical digital camera (including a mobile phone camera) can read this code from a few meters away.
Determining the Product Origin
If an issue arises in the blockchain (e.g. a counterfeit vaccination or an expired vaccination), it can be tracked up to previous touchpoints, locations, and timestamps. This way, the product’s origin can be determined, along with its manufacturer and the batch to which it belongs.
With blockchain enabling the rectification of such issues, it would become possible to quickly detect and remove such products from the supply chain.
Prevention of Data Amendment
Although counterfeiters can copy barcodes, the blockchain would indicate any such suspicious activity. This way, any attempts to alter the data will become visible to all the authorized users in the blockchain, who can prevent these changes.
Blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT)
Blockchain can be combined with IoT (such as temperature sensors) for monitoring temperature and storage conditions. These smart IoT sensors are placed on the transport containers. They collect, store, and transmit information related to temperature and storage on the blockchain. This combination allows hospitals, distributors, and regulators to determine whether the vaccines are transferred and stored completely.
Other Benefits of Blockchain in Pharmaceutical Supply Chain
Cumulatively, blockchain can prove to be beneficial in many ways, such as:
- Efficient locating of issues, hold-ups, and removal of the risks
- Prompt removal of the faulty products from the supply chain.
Alysidia can help with Pharmaceutical Blockchain Supply Chain Management
The importance of COVID-19 vaccines in resuming normal daily-life activities is evident. However, it is necessary that every vaccine included in the vaccine supply chain management is authentic and delivers its maximum efficacy.
In this context, Alysidia provides pharmaceutical companies and other healthcare institutions with state-of-the-art blockchain solutions to prevent any counterfeiting in the vaccine supply chain.