Afghan Healthcare Ministry to Fight Drug Counterfeiting with Blockchain

One of the many problems that war-torn Afghanistan has been facing in recent times that have taken a toll on its healthcare system is the problem of counterfeit drugs. The country is looking at modern technology to solve the problem. The healthcare ministry of Afghanistan, along with the few pharmaceutical companies, has decided to use Fantom’s blockchain technology to combat the problem. Fantom’s Opera Blockchain technology would be employed to track 80,000 units of pharmaceutical products belonging to four different companies in the country.

Once the success and efficiency of this blockchain technology are proved, the use of Opera’s blockchain would be further scaled during the later part of the year. In this pilot experiment, 50,000 units of hand sanitizer, 10,000 units of Dioacare foot cream, 10,000 units of joint creams, and 10,000 units of Kofol tablets would be tracked. Afghanistan has been combating the issue of counterfeit drugs for many years now. In 2017 itself, the law enforcement agencies of the country seized more than 100 tons of counterfeit drugs, including counterfeit products, substandard medicines, and outdated drugs.

With the use of blockchain technology, pharmaceutical companies aim to create an immutable trail of the supply chain that cannot be tampered with. The products in this pilot assignment would contain a shipping label that would be scanned at every stage of the shipping and distribution process. Every time the product is scanned, a hash of the name of the product, expiration date, batch identification number, and other relevant details would be saved on the blockchain along with the timestamp.

A hash is typically a non-reversible mathematical function that allows individuals to verify whether the data provided is the same as the origin of hash. As per the World Health Organization, one in every ten medical products is substandard or falsified in developing nations. However, in Afghanistan, this number is much higher.

In a report provided by the European Asylum Support Office, the majority of Afghanistan’s population does not have access to adequate medical and healthcare facilities. It further said that 20 percent of the country’s health sector did not have electricity, 40 percent of the country’s medical and healthcare products are smuggled into the country, and over 94 percent of the population lives more than 2 hours away from their homes.

To address these issues, the Afghanistan healthcare ministry is looking to use Fantom’s Blockchain technology. The trial of a smart medicine program based on blockchain is the first step towards rehabilitation of the healthcare sector. The program was slated to commence much earlier, but the Covid-19 pandemic caused unusual delays. Michael Kong, CIO of Fantom, says that there has been a huge demand for health and medical products in the market due to the pandemic.

It has provided opportunistic elements in the country to take advantage of the surge in demand to supply substandard medical products as well as cause an imbalance in the base retail prices of products. The three other companies that are part of the smart medicine program are Nabros Pharma, Bliss GVS, and Royal Star Pharma. The healthcare ministry, after the successful set up of the supply chain of medicines and healthcare products, is also looking towards using blockchain technology for the storage of patients’ health records.

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