DHL trials blockchain in pharma supply chain to cut out counterfeit drugs

The logistics firm has partnered with Accenture to make sure medication shipments aren't tampered with

DHL is trialling blockchain technologies to try and stamp out the distribution of counterfeit drugs in the pharmaceutical industry.

Partnering with Accenture has enabled DHL to track the pharma supply chain, from the point of origin (for example, the factory where the drugs are produced), right through to the consumer, preventing them from being tampered with en route. Using blockchain will also help eliminate errors in the processing of the freight, ensuring supply data is as accurate as possible.

It uses a system of serialisation across six territories, with the ledger available to share with stakeholders, which could be the manufacturer, originating warehouse, distributor, pharmacy, hospital or doctor's surgery and can process more than seven billion unique serial numbers and 1,500 transactions per second.

"The experiments with blockchain in finance are well known, but we believe logistics is an area where the new technology will have a truly profound impact," insists Matthias Heutger, senior vice president of DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation.

"Implementing productive solutions, however, will require further technological development and, critically, collaboration between all stakeholders."

DHL explained it chose to experiment with pharmaceuticals because it offers a huge opportunity to make a difference. Up to a million lives a year are lost due to counterfeit drugs, with almost 30 percent of all medications sold in emerging markets counterfeit.

"We see especially exciting potential for blockchain in pharmaceuticals, which is why we focused our proof of concept with Accenture on the life sciences and healthcare industry," says Keith Turner, CIO of DHL Supply Chain's chief development office.

"By utilising the inherent irrefutability within blockchain technologies, we can make great strides in highlighting tampering, reducing the risk of counterfeits and actually saving lives."

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