Ep. 66 – Blockchain & AI in Pharmaceutical & Healthcare – insights from FarmaTrust

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Najib Rehman, Data Strategy Lead, at FarmaTrust and Raja Sharif, CEO and Founder of FarmaTrust join us in this exciting podcast on how they use AI and blockchain technology in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry to help resolve some of its problems.


What is blockchain?

Blockchain is essentially a database that is distributed for all relevant parties to have access and visibility. Where it differs from traditional databases is that it doesn’t have a sole controller. With blockchain if all the parties have an agreement, a consensus around what the distributed dataset looks liken, then it’s very difficult to game the system. Blockchain makes it easier to identify the bad actors.


Fraud & challenges in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry

The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 700,000 people die every year due to complications caused by counterfeit Tuberculosis and Malaria vaccines. PWC estimates that counterfeit pharmaceutical is a $200bn annual business. This is quite a significant percentage of the $1.2 trillion pharmaceuticals global trade.

In the UK alone, the NHS is dealing with large amounts of waste within various hospital institutions such as how inventory is managed, how it’s being leveraged and used within each hospital by healthcare professionals or not being used. Due to the very nature of healthcare, hospitals can’t afford not to have something on the shelf to treat a patient, as the consequences could be catastrophic for the patient. So, there is a large amount of excess stock that’s often floating and often sadly not used to ensure that patient safety and patient lives are the priority.


The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 50% of drugs sold online in the West is fake. In Europe the Falsified Medicines Directive and in the US the Drugs Supply Chain Security Act are both trying to address this challenge by stipulating that pharmaceutical companies need to have individual serialisation and digitisation of the packs of medicine. So, all packs in developed markets now have to have an individual identity that therefore makes the use of distributed ledger technology quite suitable for this challenge

Combination of AI and machine learning can help identify patterns to help healthcare professionals ensure that patients are treated but without the waste that we’re seeing today.


Data standards in healthcare

GS1 is a global data standard that is used across industries including in healthcare. It is a standard that is used for products for tracking and identification. These standards aren’t always adhered to. Companies and entities will create their own identifiers for a product which then conflicts. How to address this problem is an important question that needs to be addressed by companies, governments and agencies. Blockchain and its associated technologies can help to address this problem.


FarmaTrust and its vision

FarmaTrust is essentially a blockchain and AI solution for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry. FarmaTurst works in three verticals:

  • Pharmaceutical tracking and data services– tracking a product or a medical device from the point of manufacture to the point of consumption. Clients of FarmaTrust for this vertical are the US FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and McKesson here in Europe.
  • Cell and gene therapy (personalised medicine) – providing technical solutions behind the production of treatments, such as carti type treatments for late stage cancer of blood cancers, stem cell therapies and pharmaceutical personalised medicine.
  • Clinical trials – providing clarity and transparency around global clinical trails using blockchain solutions


Why blockchain?

The most interesting quality of blockchain is the immutability and incorruptibility of the data. Once you can ensure you have good data and ensure data integrity that has lots of knock on effects in terms of data analytics and artificial intelligence.

Smart contract also plays an important role. You can automate many of the processes and with FarmaTrust it allows to automate functions like automatic purchase ordering, automated regulatory reporting and automated payments. Thus, ensuring that FarmaTrust can digitize every part of the process in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector. For the incumbents FarmaTrust bring a lot of cost savings, efficiencies and visibility or transparency

For the end user it means they can trust the medicines they are taking and if done properly can help reduce the costs and future proof of operations.

FarmaTrust uses Quorum as its blockchain technology.

From an AI perspective, its utility is about optimization of inventory and ensuring that the right product is in the right place at the right time.


FarmaTrust ongoing project – inventory tracking

FarmaTrust is working with a major pharmaceutical wholesaler in helping them optimise inventory tracking. They had a legacy system infrastructure that wasn’t providing them with the transparency to their staff in their warehousing facility nor to the drug manufacturers.

FarmaTrust system sits alongside the wholesaler’s legacy technology by optimising the value chain from production to wholesaler to the ultimate point of dispensation, be it a hospital or pharmacy. The blockchain provides the audit trail, the immutability of the data and alongside machine learning it can help optimise what is the optimal stock level at every point along the value chain.

FarmaTrust is also running a pilot with the FDA and Systech to provide compliance, traceability, anti-counterfeit and product safety solutions, enabling clients to ensure product authenticity from the manufacturing floor to a patient’s hands. Najib believes that they’re the only pilot on the drug supply chain security at to pilot this using blockchain technology.


Your Turn

Thank you, Najib and Raja, for sharing your insights on blockchain & AI in pharmaceutical and healthcare. If you liked this episode, please do review it on iTunes. If you have any comments or suggestions on how we could improve, please don’t hesitate to add a comment below. If you’d like to ask Antony a question, feel free to add a comment below and we’ll get him over to our site to answer your questions.

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