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Indian Government Turns to Blockchain to Crackdown on Fake Drugs

Last Updated April 27, 2023 8:43 AM
Samburaj Das
Last Updated April 27, 2023 8:43 AM

An influential Indian government think tank is reportedly working on a blockchain proof-of-concept (PoC) solution to crackdown on the country’s chronic counterfeit drug supply.

The National Institute of Transforming India (NITI Aayog), the country’s foremost policy-making body and think tank, is looking to complete the PoC by the year’s end ahead of a real-world rollout in 2019, according to local publication Factor Daily .

According to a 2017 report  released by the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 20% of medicines sold in India are found to be sub-standard or falsified. The report also suggests that 35% of counterfeit drugs sold globally come from India, underlining the significant problem at hand.

An anonymous NITI Aayog official told the publication:

We are all taking those [counterfeit] medicines and I am sure people are dying. One way to reduce that is put the entire supply chain on the blockchain.

The trial, the official claims, will see unique identification codes or numbers allocated for every single medicine which can then be tracked through the entire supply chain using blockchain technology. At every stage of the supply chain, the unique ID ensures the medicine is tracked immutably. Consumers will also be able to scan the QR code or a barcode on the medicine at the time of purchase on a smartphone app to verify the manufacturing source and the entire history of the supply chain process.

When the medicine is sold, the unique code “gets irrevocably audited on the blockchain” to ensure that the same ID isn’t duplicated to be used with spurious drugs, the official added.

India’s $28 billion pharmaceutical industry is supposedly throwing its support behind the trial, although there is some apprehension over costs.

“Fake drugs are a concern and if blockchain can help the industry get rid of the problem we are up for it,” DG Shah, secretary general of industry lobby Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance said of the trial. “If the government is willing to consider it that is an additional cost and compensate it, they industry will have no objection,” he added.

The official also pointed to short-term concerns over implementing blockchain technology for the country’s entire drug inventory. Additional barcoding will result in a production loss of 25% in the short term at least,” Shah added, citing an inadequate packaging capacity.

Meanwhile, another senior NITI official revealed the think tank has already identified a technology partner for the PoC trial. The body is currently on the lookout for a partner to implement and carry out the endeavor on a blockchain.

As reported previously, the NITI is already partaking in a number of blockchain PoC trials across a number of sectors including education, healthcare, and agriculture. The Indian government’s numerous blockchain endeavors, both federally and in number of states, falls in line with mandate by India’s prime minister who recently called for the “rapid adaptation” of “disruptive technologies such as blockchain” in society.

Featured image from Shutterstock.