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Blockchain is one of the most talked-about technologies to have emerged in recent times, with many believing that it remains over-hyped and even that it is a solution searching for a problem to solve.

In Life Sciences however, we are starting to see some interesting use cases come to the forefront, that specifically leverage the distributed and secure nature of the technology. I would like to highlight here a couple of those that seem to have real merit.

Medical Device tracking: Blockchain is very compelling when it’s used to record data about an object whose movement and ownership changes among multiple parties. High value medical devices, where the inventory can exist in multiple "nontraditional" locations, is a case in point. Significant quantities are distributed in the vehicles (and even the homes) of sales representatives as they travel from hospital-to-hospital. Equally, there are significant quantities in the hospitals themselves on a consignment basis, since it is often known only during surgery which specific size of device or component is needed for a specific patient. With the opportunity to represent a device as a block, and all transactions, ownership and movements recorded in that immutable and distributed block, the devices industry can benefit significantly in inventory accuracy, control and integrity.

Product Recall: When a pharmaceutical product is recalled, it can be difficult to answer a simple question, "Where are all the batch quantities located?" Most pharmaceutical products are sold through wholesalers, who in turn may sell to local distributors, with inventory being managed by Third Party Logistics partners. All parties would benefit greatly if the information on batch quantities were stored as blocks, so that the knowledge of a specific batch or case could be instantly retrieved from the blockchain with the full provenance clearly recorded for all to see. Additional benefits that may accrue include:

  • Authentication of charge-backs, rebates, reimbursements and return authorization.

  • Recording events around drug dosage, infusions and related applicators.

Clinical Trial Data: Finally, the clinical area shows some great promise for creating and managing patient medical records, for sample reverse logistics and for tracking and assigning of blinded and double-blinded serialized kits to patients.

The above areas hold some terrific promise in Life Sciences, although whether the technology is yet ready for prime time remains an open question.