Can Blockchain Solve Healthcare? Nigeria Bets On The Technology To Curb Fake Drugs

Blockchain technology emerges as a potential robust solution to the persistent issue of counterfeit medicines in the pharmaceutical sector. According to Goldstein Market Intelligence’s forecast, the estimated impact of counterfeit medicines is a staggering $5.3 billion this year. Despite these challenges, industry experts express optimism about the transformative impact of blockchain technology in addressing this pressing concern.

Is Blockchain The Solution To Counter Fake Drugs?

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

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

The impact of counterfeit medicines extends far beyond financial losses. According to the United Nations, substandard drugs result in a staggering 500,000 deaths annually in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Shockingly, within that figure, 267,000 deaths are linked to counterfeit antimalarial drugs, while substandard antibiotics for severe pneumonia contribute to 169,271 deaths.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control recently took action against the counterfeit medicine trade, destroying over N500 million worth of fake and expired goods in Abuja. The regulator noted that the destroyed drugs included psychoactive and controlled substances, antibiotics, anti-hypertensives, herbal remedies, and drugs confiscated from unauthorized vendors.

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Smart Contracts: Antidote To Drug Counterfeiting

Akindeinde further explained that blockchain technology offers an immutable solution through the use of smart contracts. Smart contracts are unchangeable lines of code deployed on the chain. Each pharmaceutical product receives a unique identification tag affixed to its packaging within a smart contract, rendering manipulation virtually impossible.

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The implications of counterfeit drugs extend beyond the immediate health risks. Legitimate pharmaceutical companies suffer reputational damage, and the entire healthcare system grapples with diminished trust due to the proliferation of fake drugs. Blockchain technology, with its inherent authentication and transparency, has the potential to restore trust and integrity.

Adewale Kayode, the Director and Team Lead at Sirfitech, echoed the sentiment, stating that the technology could provide authentication and transparency across the entire pharmaceutical value chain. From raw materials to manufacturing and distribution, blockchain technology can ensure the verifiability and traceability of pharmaceutical products, instilling confidence in consumers and stakeholders alike.

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

Featured image from Freepik, chart from TradingView

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Author: Christian Encila

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