Can Blockchain Solve the Healthcare Problem? Nigeria relies on technology to reduce counterfeit drugs

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Blockchain technology is emerging as a potential, solid solution to the persistent problem of drug counterfeiting in the pharmaceutical sector. According to a forecast by Goldstein Market Intelligence, the estimated impact of counterfeit drugs this year will be a staggering $5.3 billion. Despite these challenges, industry experts express optimism about the transformative impact of blockchain technology in solving this pressing problem.

Is Blockchain a solution in the fight against fraudulent medicines?

In a recent interview with Sunday PUNCH, Oluseyi Akindeinde, CEO of Hyperspace Technologies, highlighted the potential of blockchain in protection of the pharmaceutical sector. Akindeinde emphasized that blockchain’s ability to serialize pharmaceutical products and assign verifiable security features could significantly hamper the trade in counterfeit medicines.

To achieve this, Akindeinde proposed integrating encrypted non-fungible token (NFT) tags into pharmaceutical products. These tags create a unique identity and offer an additional layer of security. By encrypting the NFT, only authorized individuals with the correct code can access information such as ownership details and any attached data, ensuring the integrity of the digital asset on the blockchain.

The impact of counterfeit medicines goes far beyond financial losses. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, substandard drugs cause a staggering 500,000 deaths a year, according to the United Nations. Shockingly, of this figure, 267,000 deaths are linked to counterfeit antimalarials, while substandard antibiotics used to treat severe pneumonia are responsible for 169,271 deaths.

The National Food and Drug Administration and Control Agency recently took action against the trade in counterfeit medicines, destroying counterfeit and expired goods worth over $500 million in Abuja. The regulator noted that the drugs destroyed included psychoactive and controlled substances, antibiotics, antihypertensives, herbal medicines and medicines seized from unauthorized sellers.

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Shrewd contracts: an antidote to counterfeit medicines

Akindeinde explained this further blockchain technology offers an immutable solution through the exploit of shrewd contracts. Shrewd contracts are immutable lines of code deployed on-chain. Each pharmaceutical product receives a unique identification tag placed on the packaging as part of a shrewd contract, making tampering virtually impossible.

The consequences of counterfeit medicines go beyond the direct health risks. Legitimate pharmaceutical companies have suffered reputational damage, and the entire healthcare system is struggling with reduced trust due to the spread of fraudulent medicines. Blockchain technology, with its inherent authentication and transparency, has the potential to restore trust and integrity.

Adewale Kayode, Director and Team Leader at Sirfitech, echoes this sentiment, stating that the technology can provide authentication and transparency across the entire pharmaceutical value chain. From raw materials to production and distribution, blockchain technology can ensure the verification and traceability of pharmaceutical products, instilling trust among consumers and stakeholders alike.

As the counterfeit medicines industry continues to evolve, the adoption of blockchain technology offers a glimmer of hope. While challenges such as regulatory frameworks and industry cooperation remain, the potential of blockchain technology to combat counterfeit medicines and protect lives is undeniable. The pharmaceutical sector is poised to leverage this revolutionary technology, paving the way towards a safer and more reliable future.

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