Featured Article: RPS Pharma Scene Podcast

The Royal Pharmacy Society (RPS) has recently interviewed our PharmaLedger partner in their podcast series.

The Royal Pharmacy Society (RPS) is a professional membership organisation for pharmacists. RPS promotes pharmacy through the media and government, provides the latest medical information and supports pharmacist development through various educational materials. They have recently created their own podcast series “RPS Pharma Scene,” where guest speakers are invited from the industry. 

In their second episode, RPS Chief Scientist Gino Martini interviewed PharmaLedger’s Culture and Adoption Co-Lead Dr Hirkirit Virdee (Kirit) (Novartis), who spoke about how blockchain technology is being applied in healthcare and how it affects patients. You can listen to the recording below.

Q: What is blockchain technology? 

Blockchain is a way to keep data secure, accurate and immutable (you can read our definition of the terms “blockchain technology” and “immutability” in our educational series #Hashing it Out: Blockchain Terms Explained Part 1.). There can be public (Ethereum or Bitcoin) or private/permissioned blockchains and the data is transacted in an open and transparent digital environment. All information that is transacted and exchanged between different parties is kept on an electronic digital record, commonly known as a “ledger.”

Blockchain – The Five A’s

Kirit also described blockchain technology using the Five A’s, which was created by PharmaLedger’s Industry Lead Daniel Fritz (Novartis) and Reference Implementation Co-Lead Marco Cuomo (Novartis). When applying blockchain in healthcare, instead of associating this technology with a financial digital cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, the asset here is data such as electronic health information.

You can read about the Blockchain – Five A’s below.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a shift in digital innovation, which can be witnessed by the development of decentralised clinical trials. Patients are staying at home and their health data is collected with various wearable devices that have the ability to capture clinical trial events. Another step to this is to add a blockchain layer, where all the information collected can be trusted within the digitally trusted ecosystem. You can read more about wearable technology and how PharmaLedger is applying it in the IoT Medical Device use case.

Blockchain and Confidentiality

Blockchain technology is the enabler for trust in the digital realm of information. Applying blockchain in healthcare must preserve privacy and it must be GDPR compliant. “The goal here is to put the patient in control of their data,” Kirit said. Currently, there are not many ways for patients to check if their medical products are authenticated in terms of provenance (you can read about this term in #Hashing it Out: Blockchain Terms Explained Part 3.) from manufacturers. 

PharmaLedger is opening new ways of communication and recall functionality through its blockchain architecture. The goal is to make patients more empowered and involved in the clinical trial process through these blockchain-based applications and patient-centric solutions.

PharmaLedger Project

Starting from January 2020, PharmaLedger is a three-year public-private partnership that is sponsored by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Association (Efpia) under the Horizon 2020 programme. It brings together 12 global pharmaceutical companies and 17 public-private entities. You can read more about the start of our project in the article, PharmaLedger: Blockchain-Enabled Healthcare. Our consortium is collaborating together with its partners to create use cases using an open architecture that any company or patient can access around the world.

Kirit also introduced the use cases falling under the three domains: clinical trials, supply chains and healthcare data. “The goal of the project is to provide a widely trusted platform that would support the adoption and design of these blockchain-enabled healthcare solutions. We want to accelerate the innovation and deliver this to patients. It would benefit the whole healthcare ecosystem and those involved, from manufacturers to patients.

Even after the project ends, the goal is to make PharmaLedger sustainable and continue after the three-years. Governance determines the political aspect of who holds the voting power and deciding factors of the project. Currently, PharmaLedger is working on the next-governance model.

PharmaLedger’s Eight Use Cases

An introduction to PharmaLedger’s eight use cases was also covered. You can read about our eight use cases by visiting our Resources and Publications page.

Kirit also mentioned the INNOV8 Competition with the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF), where pharmacy students were asked to submit written proposals about applying blockchain technology within the community pharmacy sector. You can read more about the results of this competition in our upcoming article.

There is still a lot of scepticism behind the adoption of blockchain technology since it is relatively new (only 12 years old). Like other innovative technologies, there is usually fear surrounding what is new and unknown. In the future, patients will likely be using blockchain without even knowing the fine details of how it works, just like we use web servers and other networks. It won’t happen quickly, but there is great potential in blockchain within the pharmaceutical sector, which is why PharmaLedger is working on building a more trusted healthcare ecosystem.

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