The growing pharmaceutical industry faces problems from both counterfeit drugs and fake drugs. The scale and severity of this industry wide problem is outlined in the snaphot below:
The most startling fact though is Interpol’s estimate that around 1 million people a year die from fake pharmaceuticals.
100 heart patients died due to adulterated medication – Pakistan 2012.
Hundreds of cancer patients took a drug that lacked active ingredients – United States 2012.
Over 8,000 patients died over a five-year period due to an antibiotic used to prevent infection after surgery having no active ingredients – India 2013.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest market for medicines, a survey by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2011 found that 64% of antimalarial drugs were fake.
“All kinds of medicines — both branded and generic — can be made fraudulently, ranging from ordinary painkillers and antihistamines, to “lifestyle” medicines, such as those taken for weight loss and sexual dysfunction, to life-saving medicines including those for the treatment of cancer and heart disease. Among the most commonly produced fraudulent medicines are those for treating depression, schizophrenia, diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol. In West Africa there has been a marked increase in fraudulent medicines, including antibiotics, antiretroviral drugs and medicines to fight life-threatening diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (“UNODC”).
Back in 2010, the WHO estimated the annual earnings of the fake/counterfeit pharmaceuticals market to be over US$75 billion. That was after the problem soared 90% in five years.
Presumably the severity of the problem has grown exponentially since then. UNDOC estimates that up to 10% of medicines sold in some developing countries make be fraudulent. The leading sources for fake drugs are reported to be: India (75%), Egypt (7%), and China (6%).
Measures taken to combat the scourge include the formation of the ePedigree system.
However, their system can only solve some of the problems. It uses package labelling with scratch-off labels which reveal a bar code number that the consumer can SMS to the manufacturer.
The system is a clever use of the outdated technology that blockchains will replace. A blockchain system using a mobile phone interface will provide a one-step outcome delivered from a far more robust and reliable verification source – the blockchain data for that product. A blockchain can be used to track and irrevocably record every step of the shipment process. It can also record the origin and history of the ingredients that go into the drugs. The drug ingredient industry is a rapidly growing sub-market.
Between 2002 to 2010, drug imports to the U.S. more than doubled, with 80% of active ingredients in drugs being imported.
Clearly, the need for accurate, reliable, immutable and auditable data exists.