The potential of blockchain technology in the pharmaceutical logistics industry is significant; however, the transition to the effective adoption of these new solutions will require further technological development and the willingness to collaborate on the part of all the actors involved”, explains Pina Putzulu, marketing and innovation director for DHL Supply Chain.

To achieve this goal, the company has been investing and working at a global and local level for more than five years to implement technologies and processes that are essential enablers for the development of blockchain technologies.

Strengthening the fight against counterfeiting

In Italy we anticipated the entry into force of the Delegated Regulation 2016/161 of the European Commission. “We adopt a solution that, through vision technology, allows real-time decoding of  monodimensional and two-dimensional barcodes on the pharmaceutical packaging, noting in particular AIC and serial number of each package” adds Putzulu.

The advantages of this type of technology for the pharmaceutical industry are many:

  • automation of the serialization process
  • real time verification (with warning on any discrepancy) of product code, quantity, batch and expiry
  • tracking of the serial code sent for each order to each recipient
  • availability of digital images, as evidence of the content of the order.

The serialization project in Turkey

In Turkey, the first country to have developed a traceability system, DHL Supply Chain has already been present since 2010 with a serialization project aimed at helping the country to reduce health spending. The “Serial track and trace” project involves over 34 thousand actors in the supply chain and makes it possible to check that the packaging of drugs can not be sold more than once, also preventing the falsification of the bar code. “To this end, the notifications received from the supplier, the pharmaceutical warehouse and pharmacies are used, as well as the approval to the sale received from the institutions responsible for the reimbursement of health expenses. For example, if the database has not received the serial number of that product and the pharmacy is trying to dispense it, the system warns the pharmacist that the product can not be administered, because there is a problem linked to identification”, explains DHL Supply Chain’s innovation manager.

End-to-end traceability

Serialization, traceability and anti-counterfeiting have been a priority action for DHL for almost ten years, which is now deeply committed worldwide to provide a proactive response to the demand for an end-to-end traceability system and effective support harmonization of regulations on drug serialization in the EU.

In particular, by February 9, 2019, pharmaceutical companies wishing to sell their products in European Union countries, with the exception of Italy, Greece and Belgium, will have to implement Directive 2011/62 EU. To counteract falsification and increase traceability, serialization requires that the manufacturer code, product code, serial number, lot number and expiration date are indicated on the box of each prescription drug. This information must be generated at the time of production of the drug and verified before dispensation to the patient.

“In order to support the pharmaceutical industry to implement the directive and satisfy every other need for serialization, DHL Supply Chain has focused on developing a unique software and operating solution globally. To give a few numbers, almost 100 customers are involved in Europe, ten nations and 17 sites for the storage and distribution of drugs that will be implemented. Thanks to the technologically advanced support, our service is evolving towards the protection of public health both in terms of protection and safety of the pharmaceutical product, and control and monitoring of the entire supply chain”, says Putzulu.