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The development of a blockchain prototype tool is in process, and it could have the potential to solve the issue of counterfeit medicines.

DHL and Accenture said the proof of concept permitted the tracking of drugs from manufacturer to consumer by using blockchain’s distributed ledger technology, a highly secure database, to confirm the supply chain of the drugs.

Numbers provided by Interpol show that around 1m people die each year from counterfeit medicine, half of pharmaceutical products sold online being fake and up to 30% of medicines sold in emerging markets have no effects whatsoever.

In a report DHL said the project would deal with “pharmaceutical serialisation”, in which each sealable medicine unit would have a unique serial number that would be related to  the product’s provenance, batch number and expiration date.

Serialisation enables a unit to be traceable in any stage of its life-cycle, especially with units that have been repackaged or disaggregated for consumption.

“The aim is to show that pharmaceutical products have come from legitimate manufacturers, are not counterfeit, and have been correctly handled throughout their journey from origin to consumer,” said the report.

“Most importantly, this initiative proves how end consumers can verify the legitimacy and integrity of pharmaceutical products, especially compliance with handling requirements. This not only reassures the end customer at the point of purchase that their medicines are genuine and in perfect condition, but has potentially life-saving implications.”

The project was developed after a lab performance simulation which demonstrated how blockchain technology could deal with volumes of more than 7bn serial numbers and more than 1,500 transactions per second over a global network which included six geographies.

DHL Supply CIO chief development office, Chain Keith Turner, said: “Our proof of concept demonstrated the opportunities blockchain presents in the fight against counterfeit pharmaceutical goods.

“Together with our partners we are actively refining the solution as well as working with key industry stakeholders to operationalise the concept.

“By utilising the inherent irrefutability within blockchain technologies, we can make great strides in highlighting tampering, reducing the risk of counterfeits and actually saving lives.”

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