Afghanistan launches Smart Medicine project to tackle counterfeit

A blockchain startup has joined forces with the Afghan government to launch the Smart Medicine project – an initiative that explores the potential of distributed ledger technology (DLT) to remove counterfeit medicines from the supply chain.

Counterfeit medicines are no laughing matter. If anything, the illegal trading of fake drugs is a billion-dollar industry worldwide, and as many as one billion people die from consuming these falsely entered drugs in the supply chain. 

A campaign held in 2017 showed that the Afghan government suspended licenses of hundreds of drug import businesses after a probe revealed over 100 tonnes of counterfeit drugs in the supply chain. 

Smart Medicine for Afghanistan’s fake drug problem

Being able to track drugs is an essential step in quashing this supply of contraband products. Thus its newly launched project, Smart Medicine based on blockchain technology, will help reveal where those pills are and who has handled them.

Last year, the South Korean blockchain enterprise Fantom had partnered with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health to enhance the overall public healthcare system using blockchain. Now, the firm has collaborated with some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the country, including Royal Star, Nabros Pharma, and publicly listed Bliss GVS, whose collective revenues surpass $120 million, along with the technology partner Chekkit. 

Illegitimate drugs are often mixed up in supply chain processes in Afghanistan by exploiting the lack of awareness among consumers and insufficient checkpoints in the process. Thus, the Smart Medicine project will now track the supply and distribution of over 80,000 drugs, 50,000 of which will be hand sanitizers, 10,000 will be joint creams, foot creams, and other chewable pills. 

Blockchain to empower pharma companies

Each product will be labeled with mandatory data requirements such as barcode number, batch number, expiry date, production date, FDA approval number, etc. 

Under this system, the pharma companies will then scan these labels and generate timestamped information, built on the Fantom Opera blockchain to create a tamper-proof audit trail. Smart Medicine initiative will ensure that pharma companies can validate the data authenticity of each drug before selling it out to customers. 

Dr. Ghulam Sayed Rashed, who is the executive director of the National Medicine & Health Care Products Regulatory Authority, said in the announcement that the success of the Smart Medicine initiative would position Fantom as the preferred choice of provider for blockchain solutions in the country. 

Given the extent of damage caused by counterfeit products, the Fantom-led project is projected as one of the most successful use cases of blockchain technology in Afghanistan so far. It has our full support and endorsement. 

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