Counterfeit Drugs In HK Have A New Hound To Face Called Blockchain
Besides the technopolitical boil in Hong Kong, one of the city’s fastest increasing wounds would be the number of counterfeit drugs found in secondary and black markets, compromising the health status of HK citizens day after day,
During 2017 alone, the production and promotion of ‘fake’ drugs and medicine escalated by 64% signifying the industry’s all-time-high for the last decade. PwC suggests that over $200bn worth of counterfeit drugs are circulating in the wild.
According to domestic surveys, over half of the residents of HK are unaware of the quality and most of the time even the origin of their prescription drugs.
The problem with counterfeit medicine is that unlike original and licensed dealers who provide industry-verifiable products that have minimum to none structural variation between different editions, ‘fake’ drugs can expose the consumer’s health due to the extreme imbalance found among different editions of the same ‘fake’ drug.
The worst part is that four out of five citizens were not even in course with counterfeit drugs, considering anything a medical agent would sell as the legit deal.
Furthermore, the survey suggests that 57% of consumers are not confident about the authenticity of a drug or medicine, while 58% of them, are clueless as to how drugs could be verified and authenticated on a supply-chain scale.
Regardless of the vitality of the integrity of medicine, the current procedures involved with drug authentication are outdated and implement practices such as looking for holes or openings in the packaging and comparing brand fonts, and other unusual misspellings that can be found in counterfeit products.
While tech progression leads to better and overall more precise counterfeits, innovative breakthroughs such as blockchain technology could help the industry to grow mature when it comes to authenticating physical and digital goods.
Zuellig, one of the world’s leading pharmaceuticals is already on-game with what they call EZtracker, a blockchain-powered platform HK drug consumers could use to track and authenticate medicine by scanning a relevant QR-code found only in drugs registered with EZtracker.
“The research shows an urgent need to raise the public’s understanding on counterfeit medicines and provide them with ways to protect themselves. Globally, counterfeit medicines are on the rise and kill one million people a year, or hinder treatment progress. It is everyone’s responsibility to take precautionary measures to fight against counterfeiters.” – Andi Umbricht, the head of Hong Kong and Macau for Zuellig Pharma said when addressing the matter.
A quick investigation reveals EZtracker’s model which consists of three main features:
- It uses blockchain technology to track, identify, and authenticate medicine packages. Information regarding the origin of the drug, as well as its manufacturing details are also subject to the distributed ledger.
- It enables automatic alerts shared between drug manufacturers and Zuellig Pharma in case of the detection of unregistered products.
- It provides citizens with educational intelligence in an attempt to raise awareness of the situation, shedding some light on illicit medicine.
One of the hottest clients of EZtracker is a Gates, and Bezos backed pharma venture, started as Merck, and currently known as Merck Sharp & Dohme in Asia. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially when analogizing the fact both Microsoft and Amazon are heavily involved with distributed ledger networks.
Of course, authentication use-cases utilizing some sort of a DLT is not a new thing, but up until now we only observe adoption from the supply chain and logistics industries, so expanding the reach of blockchain-powered supply-chain management platforms to the pharma industry is generally a step forward.