According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 10 medical products “is substandard or falsified” in developing nations. In Afghanistan, the numbers are staggeringly higher and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health is looking to correct this predicament.
Research conducted by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) found that large sections of Afghanistan’s rural population had inadequate access to essential health care services. The report, further detailed that:
- 82.4% of Afghans lived less than 2 hours from a hospital.
- 94.8% of the population lived less than 2 hours away from a pharmacy.
- 20% of the health sector did not have electricity.
- 40% of medicine and medical equipment that enter the Afghan market, do so illegally.
In a bid to try and rectify issues within the Afghan healthcare industry, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health is set to commence trialing a blockchain-based smart medicine pilot program on Fantom’s Opera mainnet.
Michael Kong, the CIO of Fantom says, “With the outbreak of COVID-19 we have seen a sudden and dramatic demand for medical products, this, unfortunately, leads to opportunistic criminals looking to profit off the disaster, since 2018, we have seen an 18% increase in seizures of antivirals and a 100% in seizures of chloroquine. These issues can be dramatically reduced via the introduction of transparent supply-chains and distributed ledger technology.”
The program faced heavy delays
The pilot program was originally scheduled to start earlier this year. However, due to COVID-19, the program was temporarily delayed. Kong mentions that “Afghanistan is very interested in using new and emerging technology such as blockchain to solve some of the problems they face internally.”
Kong adds, “Given that counterfeit medicinals are a huge problem for Afghanistan, we signed an MoU with the Ministry of Health to conduct a pilot program—and organized several companies to participate in this program to prove the benefits of our technology.”
“It took us a few months to organize this pilot program. And, it took several months more to begin the program. Unfortunately, COVID-19 seriously affected Afghanistan, and as a result, medical shipments were delayed during the pandemic,” says Kong.
The pilot program is underway
Fantom is rolling out the smart medicine pilot program that will last for approximately 2-3 months, in conjunction with 3 other companies.
- Royal Star Pharma: A major pharmaceutical distributor in Afghanistan that will be labeling items and distributing them to pharmacies across the country. Royal Star Pharma will also be labeling a hand sanitizer that is produced by the company, which has been endorsed by the World Health Organization.
- Nabros Pharma: A privately-held company based in India that produces kofanol chewing tablets for people with coughs; diacare foot cream, an anti-fungal foot cream for diabetics; and free joint cream, a cream for people that suffer from joint issues.
- Bliss GVS: A publicly listed company on the Indian National Stock Exchange will be labeling some of their products as they are able to ship them to Afghanistan.
Dr. Ghulam Sayed Rashed, the executive director of National Medicine and Health Care Products Regulatory Authority of the Ministry of Public Health said, “This program is the first application of blockchain in Afghanistan; we are so happy to be applying it in the health sector to stop counterfeit drugs by making it easy to track pharmaceutical products. It’s an important project for our nation, and we fully endorse it.”
How the supply chain process works
Fantom provides labels to attach to the pharmaceutical products produced by Bliss GVS and Nabros Pharma. Royal Star will then scan labels at each step of the distribution process. All of the scanned data uses a cryptographic encryption process that is timestamped and saved on the Fantom blockchain—creating an immutable audit trail.
The authenticity of the goods is then checked by the Royal Star and the Ministry of Public Health to ensure that the data and goods are authentic by comparing the hash of the data to the hashes that exist on the blockchain. According to Fantom, the end consumer can also scan the label to verify its authenticity. The pilot project will track a set of 80,000 products that include:
- 50,000 hand sanitizers.
- 10,000 free joint cream items to relieve joint pain.
- 10,000 kofanol chewable tablets, which help relieve coughs, colds, and sore throats.
- 10,000 diacare foot cream for diabetics and skin infections.
Blockchain and the future of healthcare
Fantom isn’t the only blockchain project trying to solve healthcare problems. The Kadena blockchain, backed by JPMorgan
The MediLedger project has managed to attract 24 companies in the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain. They have collaborated on the DSCSA pilot project, with the intention of having the initiative approved by the FDA, to create an interoperable track and trace system for US prescription drugs. Among the participants are Walmart