Newer technologies to stop fake drugs

*Counterfeits account for 17% of medicines’ supply in Nigeria
Experts have called for the adoption of newer technologies in Nigeria such as mass serialization and blockchain to reduce the incidence of fake and counterfeit medicines.

In blockchain, the company’s strategy is to assign each product as an asset and add them to the blockchain. Each item will be given a unique number (hash) that will be verified through the company’s blockchain technology.

Mass serialization is the process of assigning a unique number to a unit of production (which can be a whole batch or an individual pack) such that it can be identified later.

The experts including economists and pharmacists decried a situation where 17 per cent of essential generic drugs and 30 per cent of anti-malarials are routinely faked.

The experts at the 90th Annual National Conference of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) in Umuahia, Abia State, warned that the situation may get worse if nothing was done urgently since a 2012 report found 64 per cent of antimalarial drugs to be counterfeit and that there are over 10,000 unregistered patent and proprietary drug stores in the country.

Chief Economist, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) West Africa, Dr. Andrew S. Nevin, in a keynote address, said private sector remains the main hub for counterfeit product and main source of medicine for many Nigerians and that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) seizedN12billion worth of counterfeit drugs in 2016.

The keynote address is titled “Drug Security in Nigeria: Technology for Supply Chain Integrity.”

The theme of the conference is “Medicines Availability and National Security.”

Nevin said NAFDAC has pioneered several authentication technologies targeted at fighting counterfeit drugs. He said on the back of technology adoption, circulation of counterfeit medicines dropped from 40 per cent in 2001 to 16.7 percent in 2015. The economist said a new mandatory method called “mass serialization,” often combined with “track-and-trace” requirements, is becoming the worldwide standard for regulators in securing the supply chain.

Nevin said supply chain integrity could be maintained by preventing counterfeit drugs based on the asset transfer concept on the blockchain.

He said the new technology is unique because there is supply chain integrity for medicines on the blockchain, batch of medicines are manufactured by the manufacturer (Point of origin), every batch of medicines is assigned a unique ID and added to the blockchain, every ID is treated as an asset on the blockchain, and customer can then audit the authenticity of the medicine from Point of Origin to Point of Sale.

Nevin also said medicines are transferred to pharmacists from warehouses digitally and movement of drugs through the supply chain is analogous to transferring assets on the blockchain.

On advantages of blockchain, the economist said it is impossible to counterfeit and immutable; there is disintermediation and ease of transfer; transparency and ease of auditing; and no overhead related to transaction processing.

To Nevin, “Many pharma/biopharma companies and governments are exploring blockchain technology, why can’t we?”

He cited a Pistoia Alliance survey, which found that 83 per cent of Senior Pharmaceutical and Life Science leaders are interested in blockchain and expect blockchain to be adopted in under five years.

The economist said Pharma Giants such as Pfizer and Genenetech recently announced they completed a medicine tracking pilot programme, MediLedger Project, a blockchain tool used to manage pharmaceutical supply chains

“The State of Delaware, in the USA, is implementing a blockchain initiative including a law that allows companies manage shares via distributed ledgers backed by blockchain; the state is also adopting blockchain in state governance and has streamlined record-keeping for corporates (filings) using the technology,” he said.



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