An Indian government think tank is working to develop a proof of concept (PoC) that would use blockchain technology to combat the sale of counterfeit drugs, according to the Indian tech publication Factor Daily, which cited interviews with two government officials who spoke under the condition of anonymity.
NITI Aayog, as the National Institution for Transforming India is popularly known, is aiming to finish designing the PoC by the end of 2018 and begin implementing it the following year. The think tank has apparently identified a company that will provide technical support for some aspects of the project, but is still seeking a partner to help implement those elements of the PoC relating specifically to blockchain technology.
According to one estimate cited in the Factor Daily report, about 20 percent of drugs in the country are either knock-offs or ineffective. Counterfeit drugs manufactured in India have made their way into other countries' markets as well.
While many details about the PoC have not yet been revealed, one of the unnamed sources did provide several hints as to how it might work. Drug packaging would be labeled with barcodes or QR codes that would correspond to an entry on a blockchain. If the plan is implemented in full, all medicine produced and consumed in India could end up on the blockchain.
"Every time the medicine changes hands," the source said, the transfer will be noted on the ledger. Once a drug is sold at the retail level, "the code gets irrevocably audited on the blockchain that this ID has been sold, and no longer exist[s]."
The PoC could also include an Internet of Things dimension, in which IoT-connected devices would monitor the shipping conditions of certain drugs, such as those which degrade when exposed to temperatures that are too high.
The Indian government previously made at least one attempt to address the problem of drug counterfeiting through the use of technology, though that effort did not involve the blockchain.
On March 12, courier firm DHL and management consulting company Accenture announced a blockchain prototype for a seemingly similar system to address the problem of phony drugs.