March 21, 2018
For very long time, there has been a rapid growth of pharmaceutical industry. Revolutionary drugs called “blockbusters” were released into the market to cure fatal diseases. Then, laboratories were the main source of innovation in the medical field and firms were making great profit. Unfortunately, the situation has drastically changed during the last decade. Innovating in rare diseases became no longer profitable and with patents passing into the public domain, pharmaceutical firms tried to find easier ways to earn money. The industry’s change in strategy led to a collapse of public trust and recent scandals have not improved the situation.
In 2013, the Guardian (1) states that: “The amphetamine derivative mediator was marketed to overweight diabetics, but often prescribed to healthy women as an appetite suppressant when they wanted to lose a few pounds. According to the French health ministry, it has killed at least 500 people from heart-valve damage, but other studies put the death toll nearer to 2,000”. Did the French Servier Laboratories (2) know about this misuse yet did not do anything to prevent it or were they simply unaware of the situation? The public opinion was shocked by this scandal, particularly in the light of poor clinical trial practices being revealed. Indeed, a recent study estimates at 80% of trials that cannot be reproduced, pointing to opaque processes.
Until now, blockchain is well-known as the technology storing the same information in a network of personal computers. Since everyone has the same data, it is impossible to hack the system unless one accesses all computers and changes all the information. This requires a computer power that even Google doesn’t possess. Once you record a document on the blockchain, you cannot go back or make any change. Therefore, the power of blockchain technology lies in the fact that it can prove a unique document was produced at a certain moment in time.
The trust problems are mainly based on the situation in which people believes that health companies hide bad clinical trial results. Specifically, there is only 1 over 10.000 molecules which officially becomes a medicine while the whole development process costs between 1.5 and 2 billion dollars. As a result, it is easily understable that bad clinical trial results have great financial repercussions. Therefore, some companies do not hesitate to modify the reports to show better results, taking serious risks with the customer’s health.
Just imagine that if the clinical trial results were automatically registered based on blockchain technology once they were produced, it would be impossible for medicine lab to modify the documents in case of bad outcomes. In other words, blockchain technology provides proof of existence for a document with a very specific content. Therefore, it would be much easier for regulators to figure out if laboratories make any change in the documents.
Moreover, sometimes there are significant differences between the results reported in scientific publications and the actual ones obtained during the trial. Specifically, many types of documents are produced during a clinical trial such as blood tests, medical imagery, surveys, etc. At the end of each phase of the clinical trial, a paper is often published in scientific magazines presenting a summary of the results. As these papers are widely spread, reaching the scientific and medical communities as well as regulators negotiating drug prices, it is in the pharmaceutical firm’s interest to present positive outcomes. In this case, blockchain technology could be a powerful tool for doctors and regulators to ensure that what is mentioned in the publication corresponds to the actual results produced during the clinical trial.
In the future, it is undeniable that blockchain technology can radically change clinical trial practices and can bring more transparency to the whole industry. But for everything in the pharmaceutical world, the decision to implement blockchain development will be taken upon the opportunity-risk balance. Hence, it is crucial to also consider the downsides of blockchain technology from the perspective of pharmaceutical industry.
According to Edelman study in 2016, 85% of the people in the world consider quality and safety as their priority when it comes to healthcare. Moreover, the study also illustrates that this sector is running short of trust-building behaviors like transparency. These two facts are inextricably linked to the respect of clinical trial’s goods practices among other elements. As mentioned above, opaque processes are clearly in the pharmaceutical firm’s benefit. So, the future of pharmaceutical industry depends on the fact that whether the firm would rather keep the bad practices and continue losing public trust or agree with the new solution of blockchain development to be more transparent and improve its image in the future.
About Article Publisher Infinity Blockchain Labs
Infinity Blockchain Labs is a visionary R&D company engaged in intermediary and RegTech services employing blockchain technology. We focus on forming alliances with established businesses and regulatory institutions across various industries, as well as providing collaborative incubation for early stage blockchain projects.
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