Researchers Fight Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals With New Blockchain Development

Researchers at Portland State University (PSU) have seized international attention after announcing they’ve developed a new blockchain protocol geared towards fighting counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Blockchain technology, or a decentralized ledger system that’s increasingly taking hold in the business world, was studied by researchers who found that it could record transactions in a secure way that can be used to determine which pharmaceutical products are legitimate and which are fake.

According to a press release issued by PSU, the new blockchain protocol “relies on blockchain to record transactions in a new, more secure, way that would help curb fake pharmaceuticals by product checking and decentralization.”

Researchers focused on the ledger nature of blockchain technology when developing the new protocol; since blockchain stores transactional records at every step of the process, a chain of information is created which can be thoroughly reviewed for discrepancies that could be a sign of counterfeit pharmaceutical operations.

Nirumpama Bulusu, a professor computer science who helped publish the new report, stressed that the infallibility of the blockchain ledger was central to the entire project.

“We wanted to come up with something that’s foolproof,” she said in the PSU press release.

Researchers also stressed that the decentralized nature of blockchain technology, which makes it hard for any one person to control the entire transaction record, will make it harder for counterfeiters to fool others in the system and take advantage of vulnerable populations. The PSU press release noted that the blockchain protocol developed by researchers wasn’t merely useful for counterfeit pharmaceuticals, either, but could theoretically “be applied to any supply chain – big or small.”

Outside of the tremendous business applications for the blockchain protocol, the research will doubtlessly help curb the ongoing counterfeit pharmaceutical crisis, which appears to have been on the rise lately.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency of U.S. Homeland Security, has been dealing with a deluge of counterfeit pharmaceuticals lately that the blockchain protocol may help soothe. Certain American facilities are immensely complex, meaning that blockchains decentralized nature could help make their logistical process more manageable. According to information compiled by the PwC Network, at least 1 million deaths are attributed to counterfeit drugs globally each year.

The new blockchain protocol could help cut down on those deaths, however, as researchers stressed it’s going to become cheaper and easier to use. Concluding their press release, the researchers noted that future business owners could even track their product history from their smartphones soon.