SAP has launched a blockchain-based supply chain monitoring service that will allow drug wholesalers to authenticate pharmaceutical packaging returned from hospitals and pharmacies.
The Information Collaboration Hub for Life Sciences will initially be used to track the return of unused drugs to wholesalers, but SAP this week said it wanted to extend the use of distributed ledger technology to include a wider range of pharmaceutical supply chain processes.
There are about 60 million pharmaceutical returns every year to US wholesalers, for an estimated value of 7 billion dollars.
While financial services and shipbuilding industries have rapidly implemented blockchain, the healthcare sector should follow its leadership as it appears to increase efficiency and security, reduce costs and expand services using blockchain.
In essence, blockchain could help remodel health interoperability by serving as next-generation middleware that combines health data with decentralized, distributed and immutable qualities, according to a report released last year by IDC Health Insights.
As a result, by 2020, 20% of healthcare organizations will have passed pilot projects and will "use the blockchain for operations management and patient identity," the report said.
Blockchain interoperability could support data exchange, offering an alternative to current health information exchanges (HIEs); in essence, it will act as a mesh network to transmit secure data, almost in real time to patients for health professionals, pharmacies, insurers and clinical researchers, according to IDC.
Last fall, SAP announced it was working with over two dozen manufacturing, pharmaceutical, technology and shipping companies on an automated blockchain supply chain tracking system designed to enhance visibility and ensure the authenticity of goods such as food and drugs.
The software giant piloted its blockchain SAP Cloud Platform with 16 vendors of farm-to-consumer products such as Maple Leaf Foods, Johnsonville, Naturipe Farms, Tate & Lyle and Natura. SAP's blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) provides a level of abstraction that supports open standards and offers integrated integration with SAP applications.
In terms of the pharmaceutical community, SAP hopes its blockchain-based tracker can be used to enable compliance Unique Drug Identification Standards (IDMPs), which include messaging specifications designed to allow identification of a unique drug anywhere in the world.
Meanwhile, said SAP, the immutable blockchain localization system will allow compliance with the US Drug Supply Chain (DSCSA), which will take effect in November and requires wholesalers to check drugs with a statute of limitations that are returned and intended for resale.
The new software allows customers to check the product code, batch, expiration date and a unique serial number embedded in the barcode with respect to manufacturers' data stored in the blockchain. The software was developed in collaboration with drug wholesalers AmerisourceBergen, Boehringer Ingelheim AG & Co. KG, GlaxoSmithKline plc and Merck Sharp & Dohme, among others.
"Connecting to the SAP Cloud Platform allows us to integrate third parties much faster in serialization processes in an agile supply chain and greatly improve the traceability of drugs," said Mary Mercado, head of global IT services. Boehringer Ingelheim.
In addition to being tracked by barcode scanning, data can be sent or received manually with each of the business partners defined by the user, which would eliminate the need for a serialization system that can use a B2B adapter or able to integrate the cloud; instead, operators download and upload all the data themselves.
"SAP's blockchain-based solution provides the best opportunity to fully meet our need for interoperability with our business partners and their solutions," said Jeffery Denton, senior director of Global Secure Supply Chain for AmerisourceBergen Corp .. "We have used this tool in a number of pilots who support our efforts to comply with the latest US FDA regulations and supports our need for a single entry or exit point by sharing information on commercial transactions with business partners in a safe environment. "