Discover cutting-edge solutions in pharma traceability and sustainability, paving the way for a healthier, eco-friendly tomorrow – with a greener future in pharmaceuticals.
The pharmaceutical industry plays a pivotal role in global healthcare, providing life-saving medications and treatments to millions of people. However, with this vital role comes an immense responsibility to ensure the safety and sustainability of pharmaceutical products and processes. Within the pharma industry sustainability has often been viewed as a trendy buzzword, used by companies to improve their public image while ignoring the bigger picture. However, this approach is shortsighted and ultimately unsustainable. In recent years, the pharma industry has been increasingly focusing on two crucial aspects: traceability and sustainability. This article explores the intersection of these concepts within the pharmaceutical sector, highlighting their significance and the steps being taken to foster a more transparent, environmentally friendly future.
The Importance of Traceability
Traceability refers to the ability to track and trace products, processes, and ingredients throughout the entire supply chain. All the way from raw material to patient consumption. In the pharmaceutical industry, traceability is a fundamental requirement to ensure the safety, quality and efficacy of medicines. Clearly being able to distinguish counterfeit products from actual pharmaceutical products is critical to the industry, as well as being able to manage recalls if those are required for a given product.
Here's why it's crucial:
Traceability offers numerous benefits to the pharmaceutical industry. It enhances patient safety by reducing any risk of counterfeit drugs as well as substandard quality of drugs entering the market. If a quality issue is discovered with a certain drug, a good traceability protocol will make it much easier to manage the recall process of the drug, as well as determining who has consumed the drugs with quality issues. These targeted actions are much easier to put in place when a company has strong traceability within their supply chain and operations.
Technology is a big help for traceability in the pharmaceutical industry. Basic efforts like barcoding, RFID and serialization are commonly used to label and track drug packages. These tracing elements tie into the full supply chain traceability, where manufacturers can monitor real-time data, ensure accurate record-keeping downstream and make better decisions on their production flows. Utilizing technology like blockchain technology to combine all of these data points into an auditable and tamper-proof system, based on the blockchain’s built-in immutable ledger, which helps to enhance the traceability and transparency throughout the supply chain.
This transparency and technology will allow the industry to identify counterfeit drugs, and save downstream consumers from potentially dangerous experiences downstream. The WHO estimates that more than 1 million people pass away from counterfeit drugs every year, with at least 20% of the deaths happening in Africa from counterfeit anti-malaria medication. A very recent examples of counterfeit drugs include a case in Pakistan where 68 diabetic patients went blind from using counterfeit drugs to combat the illness.
Data from the Pharmaceutical Security Institute shows that the number of counterfeit incidents have increased to over 6.000 incidents in 2021, with is an increase of 38% from the year before, and the highest number ever recorded, in the time that these statistics have been conducted.
Regulatory agencies, such as the FDA in the United States or the EMA in Europe, has enacted strict traceability laws and regulations which mandates pharmaceutical companies to implement traceability systems. As an example the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) in the United States requires pharmaceutical companies to establish traceability systems for tracing the distribution of prescription drugs. If companies don’t comply with these laws and regulations, it can result in severe penalties and fines as well as damage to the company’s reputation.
Traceability can also improve operational efficiency by reducing errors, minimizing waste, and optimizing inventory management. However, as obvious as the benefits might be, implementing a traceability system comes with significant challenges. This includes the investment from a cost perspective, as well as data security concerns along with the need for global standardization in the field of traceability.
With the advancements in telemedicine and e-pharmacies, the industry recognizes that innovative traceability technology is necessary, in order to manage these new expansions. Here blockchain technology can help to ensure authenticity and public safety of medications.
Sustainability in Pharma
Sustainability within the pharmaceutical industry extends beyond the mere adoption of environmentally conscientious measures. It encompasses the complete lifespan of the pharmaceutical products. This spans from drug development through to drug disposal with the overarching objective of making medications accessible, economically attainable across all groups of society. The pharmaceutical sector has a considerable environmental footprint due to the resource-intensive nature of drug development and manufacturing. Genuine sustainability entails adopting a forward-looking approach, which serves the health of communities and the environment. It dictates a dedication to social, environmental, and ethical obligations that transcend the pursuit of short-termed profits.
Here's why sustainability matters:
Drug manufacturing requires vast amounts of water, energy, and raw materials. Sustainable practices aim to minimize waste and resource consumption, reducing the industry's ecological impact. These endeavors include exploring sustainable energy sources, such as solar powered manufacturing sites, as well as investing in closed-loop manufacturing systems.
By adopting cleaner energy sources and more efficient manufacturing processes, pharmaceutical companies can significantly decrease their greenhouse gas emissions. Being able to communicate actual carbon footprint advances, will set the successful pharmaceutical companies apart from the rest.
As consumers and investors become increasingly environmentally-conscious, pharmaceutical companies are under pressure to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Having technology to prove the sustainable activities and success will be crucial for companies in the pharmaceutical industry, and partnering with companies who can help them to achieve this will be pivotal for success.
Sustainable practices can lead to cost savings in the long run by reducing energy and material expenses. These savings can be passed onto the consumers, and help to ensure that indispensable medication can be made more accessible to marginalized communities. This would help to curb the trend of millions of people dying tragic deaths due to treatable diseases every year.
Overarching sustainability goals with the pharmaceutical industry can be mirrored on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), which was formulated back in 2015, with the aim of transforming the global trends, as a part of the 2030 Development Agenda titled “Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” https://sdgs.un.org/2030agenda
The 2030 SDGs is a collection of 17 interlinked objectives covering global hunger, global poverty, health and well-being as well as quality education, gender equality, clean water and clean energy.
The Convergence of Traceability and Sustainability
While traceability and sustainability are distinct concepts, they intersect in several ways within the pharmaceutical industry:
Both traceability and sustainability efforts require transparency throughout the supply chain. Knowing the source of raw materials and tracking their provenance helps identify areas where sustainable practices can be implemented. Utilizing technology will help to advance the efforts of the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. Companies can set themselves apart on over-the-counter medication – like paracetamol, ibuprofen, etc. - and offer a unique experience for end-users, who can see exactly how the drug in their hand was created.
By accurately tracking inventory and expiration dates, pharmaceutical companies can minimize waste, which aligns with sustainability goals. Maximizing the usage of produced medication and reducing the waste will benefit the entire industry, and implementing products nearing expiration at lower price, for organizations supporting good causes, will help to improve the image of an industry, that has taken a hit during the recent COVID period.
Steps Towards a Sustainable and Traceable Pharma Industry
Embracing technologies like blockchain, IoT (Internet of Things), and artificial intelligence can enhance traceability and enable real-time monitoring of environmental impacts.
Finding a partner who can help your business combine all three in one solution, would be an ideal partner for anyone in the pharmaceutical industry. Software solutions based on blockchain technology will allow a new level of insight for companies who partner with it, and allow them to make real-time decisions, which can dramatically improve their processes, manufacturing and efficiency. Linking up with sensors throughout the production and manufacturing lines through IOT technology, will give companies the ability to prove every step of their process, and share this data with downstream partners and consumers.
Investing in greener manufacturing processes and renewable energy sources can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of pharmaceutical production, and set industry players apart from the competition.
Implementing circular economy principles, such as recycling and reusing materials, can reduce waste and promote sustainability. Recycling is generally gaining momentum within the pharmaceutical industry. Reclamation and repurposing of expired medication is a prominent way of reducing waste in the industry, and keeping pharmaceutical waste out of the landfills and more importantly the water systems.
Ethical sourcing plays an important role in the pharmaceutical industry as well. Making sure that all raw materials are procured through responsible and social conscious means. Many companies are focusing on this already, and this will be a critical driver for the industry, to help to achieve overall sustainability and traceability.
Giving end-users a digital experience they can engage with will increase the speed of adoption for new products, as well as provide a constant guideline for patients on how to consume the drugs in question. Companies can outline dosage and frequency with which the drug should be taken, as well as give information cross interactions, product authenticity, possible recalls or adjustments to the drug. In short – a digital experience will always keep the end-user up to date, and provide a direct relationship with the manufacturer, which increases trust and adoption of new products.
Technology partners like Myneral Labs can create this digital experience through their software solutions, where manufacturers can decide what information should be shared, and make sure it matches the company’s corporate marketing profile. Having reliable partners, who can provide efficient and long-lasting solutions is critical to manufacturers, who are trying to separate themselves from the competition.
The pharmaceutical industry's pursuit of traceability and sustainability is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic necessity. By ensuring the safety of products and minimizing their environmental impact, pharmaceutical companies can build trust with consumers, regulators, and investors while contributing to a healthier planet. As technology advances and awareness of these issues grows, the pharma industry has the potential to lead the way in creating a more sustainable and traceable future for all.