Blockchain could solve pharma’s supply chain challenges, says Zuellig Pharma
Daniel Laverick is VP and Head of Digital & Data at Zuellig Pharma, one of the largest healthcare companies in Asia. Ahead of his session at Pharma IQ Live: Digital Supply Chain 2022, he describes how blockchain can improve visibility for pharmaceutical businesses and reduce the risk of counterfeit medications entering the supply chain.
Pharma Logistics IQ: What do you think are the main challenges pharmaceutical supply chains are facing right now?
Daniel Laverick: Even though we are now in an age of digital transformation, pharma supply chains continue to operate in silos. In Asia, serialization is not mandated in most countries. Each stage of the supply chain has its processes and non-standard product identifiers to manage products, which really inhibits data integration in terms of visibility and traceability.
The lack of end-to-end traceability and visibility of the supply chain brings a string of problems. Key to this is network capital locked up in supply chains. How do you optimize that? Then obviously making sure pharma products are stored in the proper conditions and handled in the right way, otherwise this can result in a significant loss of quality with a huge impact on patient safety. We have already seen this with the vaccines, how not storing them at the right temperature causes issues. Counterfeit medication is a big problem in Asia. It is quite scary when you see the estimates in the region of US$200b in lost revenue, and that maybe three in 10 products are counterfeit in Southeast Asia alone. The final challenge is around product track and trace and how you use that to help with things like stock-out situations. There is increased pressure on pharma manufacturers to be able to prove medicine quality and provenance, so unlocking those silos and being able to give patients confidence that a product is genuine and has been stored in the right conditions are the key challenges that we see right now.
Pharma Logistics IQ: Can blockchain provide a solution to any of these issues?
DL: Blockchain has evolved from being a buzzword to now being seen as essential to supply chains. The fact that it is a decentralized ledger that is immutable helps to improve material traceability. At Zuellig Pharma, we have been working with blockchain technology for quite some time and we have developed an end-to-end traceability solution called eZTracker. The idea is to make healthcare more accessible by breaking down the data silos so there is better data integration between pharma manufacturers, healthcare organizations, doctors, nurses and then obviously the patients. Tracking individual products and packs is key to this as well. Being able to get a digital identity for each package really allows you to see the granularity of where that product has been. With blockchain, we can detect counterfeits in real-time and look at enhancing cold chain monitoring. From there we can start to optimize inventory management which brings a whole raft of efficiencies with it. Blockchain really creates an ecosystem of collaboration. Previously, data sharing was very difficult but now you can break down those barriers.
Pharma Logistics IQ: Some people see blockchain as a game-changer while others still think it is a nebulous concept and do not believe it will take off. Do you think the industry is getting on board?
DL: It is relatively nascent and there is still room to grow in the use of blockchain, especially enterprise blockchain, but I think we have turned a corner. There is a trust element going into a blockchain network with your key competitors, but we are starting to see adoption and certainly, among pharmaceutical and healthcare supply chains, we are witnessing a rapid expansion in use cases. Personally, I think serialization is key to getting mass adoption, and we are not seeing that move nearly as fast as it needs to in Asia. Lack of interoperability is another issue where there is not a solution out there that can bridge the different blockchain solutions that exist.
Pharma Logistics IQ: Finally, could you share your top reasons for people to attend your session at Pharma IQ Live: Digital Supply Chain 2022?
DL: For business leaders and decision makers, it really is an opportunity to identify potential areas of improvement in the supply chain process, especially using technologies such as blockchain. You will hear first-hand how we are doing this with real-life solutions that are out there that can be used readily by patients, healthcare practitioners and pharma manufacturers. It is also a great opportunity to meet like-minded leaders, and people who are looking to innovate and maybe form potential partnerships. You will see something that is live and being used in the market, and I get to share some of the pitfalls I’ve had before getting the solution to where it is. Digital Supply Chain 2022 takes place on April 26 – 27. Catch Daniel Laverick’s session How Can Pharma Supply Chains Utilize Blockchain to Ensure End-to-End Traceability and Secure Data Management? on April 26 at 9am EST (2pm GMT). Register for free here.