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India to combat fake drugs with blockchain

Pilot project will use distributed cryptography system to address pharmaceutical counterfeiting

by K. V. Venkatasubramanian, special to C&EN
August 23, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 34


India has initiated a project to deploy blockchain technology to crack down on counterfeit drugs and ensure that consumers receive authentic products.

The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI), a government think tank, “is putting pharma supply chain management in blockchain for complete traceability of drugs from the manufacturer to consumer,” CEO Amitabh Kant said, addressing the International Blockchain Congress in Hyderabad on Aug. 4.

NITI has partnered with U.S.-based information technology giant Oracle and India’s Apollo Hospitals chain to implement the project. It plans to eliminate all channels of counterfeit medical products, including pharmaceuticals, by transferring the hospital chain’s complete inventory to a blockchain-powered system. The technology is expected to reduce fraud and better manage quality in the production and distribution of pharmaceutical products. The government hopes to get real-time visibility into all drugs produced in and exported from the country.

A blockchain is a continuously growing list of digital records, or blocks, that are linked using cryptography. Organizations that use the records share data control in ledgers that are replicated and synchronized across all participants.

India, the world’s largest producer of generic drugs, is a major player in counterfeit pharmaceutical manufacturing. Around 10% of medical products in low- and middle-income countries, including India, are substandard or falsified, according to the World Health Organization. India supplies 40% of generics consumed in the U.S.


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