The pharmaceutical industry on blockchain

Amid rising counterfeiting, regulatory changes and a cold chain logistical test like no other on the horizon–the worldwide distribution of coronavirus vaccines–the pharmaceutical industry faces an array of challenges, many of which lead back to lack of visibility in a complex global supply chain. By providing transparency and enabling trust, blockchain technology can help.


USD in total annual cost from products lost to temperature deviations in shipping.

Source: FreightWaves


of pharmaceutical sales are for temperature-controlled products.

Source: FreightWaves


of vaccines reach their destination degraded because of incorrect shipping.

Source: International Air Transport Association (IATA)

How can IBM Blockchain Transparent Supply help?

In the pharmaceutical industry, where supply chain visibility, speed and coordination are critical to the delivery of safe and effective products, blockchain is essential. IBM Blockchain Transparent Supply is helping organizations build blockchain-based ecosystem networks quickly and easily.

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Establish supply chain integrity with cold chain monitoring

Identify contamination of high-value temperature-sensitive products like biologics with step-by-step visibility of cold chain sensor data from manufacture to delivery. If temperature incursion occurs, assign financial responsibility and chargebacks where they belong.

Fight fraud and theft with provenance authentication

Ensure that the products on the shelves and in the pharmacy are authentic. Data sharing and visibility into a product’s journey from the production line to the patient make it possible to decrease fraud through an immutable record of events.

Drive time and cost out of the supply chain with data and digitization

Analytics can reveal new business opportunities to improve inventory management and increase efficiency while giving early warning to disruptions in ingredient sourcing. Permissioned participants have near real-time visibility into documents that are digitized and stored on the blockchain.

Address regulation requirements for drug tracking

Blockchain technology, with its shareable ledger and immutable data, is ideally suited to the task of tracking unique digital IDs assigned to product units and identifying the location of products under recall in seconds, not days.

Use case

Improving transparency and traceability across the temperature-controlled pharmaceutical supply chain

Sonoco ThermoSafe is a leading global provider of temperature assurance packaging for pharmaceutical distribution. The company is building a vendor-neutral, industry-scale blockchain platform, PharmaPortal™, that will enable pharmaceutical manufacturers and carriers to collaborate on the safe delivery of biologics, vaccines and other temperature-sensitive products.

The openly governed network, built on IBM Blockchain Transparent Supply, will focus on end-to-end traceability and provide an audit trail of environmental condition monitoring. As the network convener, Sonoco’s objective is to create a permissioned platform for the industry that will ultimately create more visibility and transparency across the pharmaceutical supply chain.

"Only through the collaborative efforts of all members of the temperature-controlled pharmaceutical distribution process can we achieve the safety and efficiency that the world needs from us in this critical time," says Howard Coker, president and CEO of Sonoco. "An effort of this magnitude requires a high level of industry engagement to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people around the world."

Despite improvements, the cold chain pharmaceutical supply chain still suffers from inefficiencies. Multiple handoffs across contracted and sub-contracted handling agents across continents create a crucial need for trusted, end-to-end visibility of pharmaceutical shipments, conditions and documents. With blockchain's inherent ability to trace drug provenance and create an immutable record of the lifecycle of a drug and how it was handled, this open industry initiative addresses the challenges the pharmaceutical industry faces, both in sourcing and distributing drugs. Learn more about Sonoco’s collaboration with IBM.

Find out how companies are using blockchain to drive end-to-end supply chain efficiency.

Watch: Increasing supply chain efficiency

See how Transparent Supply is building a next-generation supply chain.

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