It’s Fight the Fakes Week, an international campaign where organisations, governments and individuals unite to raise awareness about the dangers of fake medicines. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1 in 10 medical products in low- and middle-income countries are fake. This poses a danger to patients who might not be educated on the effects of consuming fake medicines, or who believe that they are receiving genuine treatment.
The Zuellig Health Solutions Innovation Centre was set up in partnership with Singapore’s Economic Development Board, to explore new ways to fulfill our mission of improving access to healthcare. More recently, one of the solutions developed here has unlocked new ways to address the problem of counterfeit products.
Head of Analytics Tristan Tan and Director SAP BI, Reporting and HANA Platform Daniel Laverick share more about this solution:
Why is blockchain a good solution to combat counterfeit products?
T: We were concerned with increasing reports of counterfeit medicines in the region and the impact this has on patients. I’ve witnessed first-hand how current measures to investigate a counterfeit product are time-consuming and inefficient. To identify a potential counterfeit, the entire supply chain needs to be investigated. This manual process often takes weeks because of the multiple parties involved and because the data sits in many different locations. Blockchain technology can really speed up this process.
D: Counterfeiters are getting more sophisticated and I feel that the industry urgently needs to leverage the latest technology to fight them. It is a natural step to harness the solutions that we have developed in our Innovation Centre to work with partners like SAP and create a tool that can quickly address the problem. That’s why our teams came together to create the eZTracker.
Tell us more about the eZTracker.
D: eZTracker uses blockchain to address counterfeit products, cross-border trading and product recalls. It allows for instantaneous material traceability, and this results in unparalleled levels of quality control and compliance to improve patient safety.
You can download the eZTracker application on your mobile phone and scan the barcode of a medical product. In a split second, the eZTracker will be able to tell you if the medicine is genuine, whether it is being legitimately distributed and where it was manufactured. If a product is fake, alerts will be automatically triggered to the manufacturer and to Zuellig Pharma together with an instant identification of where the fake product entered the supply chain.
T: What I feel is most important and revolutionary about the eZTracker is that for the first time, patients are empowered to join in the fight against counterfeits. This application should be available to all patients so that they have instant access to complete information at their fingertips.
How do you think the eZTracker can benefit the healthcare industry?
T: Apart from the most important function of improving patient health outcomes and safety, manufacturers will also be able to detect cross-border transactions using the eZTracker. Another benefit is that we can raise patient awareness on the ills of counterfeit products and non-adherence through integrating educational materials provided by manufacturers within the application.
D: This is also going to make product recalls much faster, because the eZTracker can trigger real-time alerts to patients and hospitals, together with immediate information on where the affected batch is located and who has it. The product recall alert system and the counterfeit detection tool will be useful for hospitals and clinics, especially for those located in rural areas. This is completely in line with our mission of making healthcare more accessible in the region.
Once the technology is in place, I think that there is potential to extend the application to governments and non-profits to raise awareness about the dangers of taking counterfeit medicine. For example, non-profits that are administering medicine in poverty-stricken or disaster areas can use the eZTracker to quickly verify the authenticity of the medicine donations that they receive.
Any news about the eZTracker that we can look forward to in the coming months?
D: We are all very excited about this, and are hoping to launch eZTracker in the first half of 2019, starting in a few key countries. This will require strong collaboration between us, pharma manufacturers, hospitals, doctors and other players in the industry.
T: We are also exploring more features within the app that will help make quality healthcare accessible to all, and I welcome ideas from our partners and clients on ways that we can work together with them to fight the fakes!