60% of pharma companies using or trying blockchain - survey

blockchain technology in pharma and healthcare

Six out of ten pharma companies are using or experimenting with blockchain, according to a new study.

According to the not-for-profit organisation The Pistoia Alliance, 60% of pharmaceutical and life science professionals are either using or experimenting with blockchain today, compared to 22% when asked in 2017.

However, 40% are not currently looking at implementing, or have no plans to implement blockchain, according to the survey of 170 senior pharma and life science professionals this year.

The biggest barriers identified to adoption are access to skilled blockchain personnel (55%), and that blockchain is too difficult to understand (16%).

These factors underline why The Pistoia Alliance is calling for the life science and pharmaceutical industries to collaborate over the development and implementation of blockchain.

Blockchain is an open, distributed ledger of information that is saved across several different servers, and is constantly growing as computers cryptographically discover the next “block” of information in the chain.

Data is protected in any given block as they cannot be altered retroactively without alteration of blocks, requiring consensus of the majority of the network.

Famously employed to administer the bitcoin cryptocurrency, blockchain can be used to create a secure repository for sensitive healthcare information such as clinical trial data.

The survey showed life science and pharmaceutical professionals are becoming more aware of the capabilities of blockchain.

Respondents believed the greatest opportunities for using blockchain lie in the medical supply chain (30%), electronic medical records (25%), clinical trials management (20%), and scientific data sharing (15%).

Of the benefits of blockchain, life science and pharmaceutical professionals believe the most significant is the immutability of data (73%). Significantly, for an industry with tight regulations, 39% also believe the transparency of the blockchain system is its best feature.

However, almost a fifth (18%) of professionals believe using blockchain adds no value beyond a traditional database, showing there is some reluctance in the industry to use the technology.

The Pistoia Alliance said that some of the misconceptions about blockchain can be overcome with greater education of those in industry.

Richard Shute, consultant for The Pistoia Alliance, said “We are currently focusing on educating scientists and researchers about the potential uses of blockchain technologies outside of the supply chain, particularly in R&D. At The Pistoia Alliance, we want to support our members’ initiatives in blockchain, as well as provide a secure global forum for partnerships and collaboration.”

  • The Pistoia Alliance is holding a Blockchain Bootcamp on 8th – 9th October in Boston as part of its drive to educate the life science industry about the technology.