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The global pharmaceutical industry is becoming ever more digitized, connected and traceability  centric. A wave of global mandates exist in the industry, to which SAP reacted to in 2015, by the creation of a network which integrates members of the pharmaceutical supply chain. Since then, SAP has positioned itself as one of the global leaders in this domain, providing an innovative business network, powered by SAP Cloud Platform, which provides the means for global pharmaceutical companies to onboard and trade information quickly, securely and reliably. Our pharmaceutical business network is cloud based , augmenting and in harmony with SAP Advanced Track and Trace technology.

SAP continues to drive innovation from the forefront, and most recently has positioned a solution for saleable returns verification, reacting to a series of upcoming mandates set by the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA). Saleable returns verification – in the simplest sense, is a process by which commercial pharmaceutical product, once returned to the point of sale / point of distribution, needs to be verified and its legitimacy validated. So far, the industry has not found a comprehensive solution to this.

Our story is that of innovation, partnership and positioning SAP as the forerunner of innovation in this space. What follows is a recap of the delivery of our concept and journey to TechEd.

In August, 2017, the SAP Innovative Business Solutions team in Ireland, launched a proof of concept, working with Silicon Valley based SAP partner Cryptowerk (a validated member of the SAP Startup Focus Program), and two of our valued pharmaceutical network customers.

The vision of this engagement saw an extension of our pharmaceutical network, leveraging blockchain technologies, to materialize into a pragmatic and solid proof of concept, working end-to-end, promoting a solution to the saleable returns verification gap which exists in industry today. The concept, in keeping with SAP’s mission statement, was to run simple. The concept would bring together SAP Advanced Track and Trace, pharmaceutical network and blockchain concepts and technologies, together in a simple, seamless, homogenized solution.

The vision was to introduce blockchain to the pharmaceutical network, in a completely non-intrusive way to the customer, and to allow the original commissioned serial numbers (sent from the Brand Owner), to be hashed and anonymized, and transmitted to the SAP Blockchain as a Service (BaaS), as well as to the Ethereum blockchain in parallel.

Transmission, through by the pharmaceutical network to the blockchains is carried out blisteringly fast, via Cryptowerk, along with the added non-repudiation mechanisms provided by the Network. The blockchain node provides then the concept of immutability and provenance and anonymity, the beauty of the selected approach being that no serial number is persisted in it’s raw form, simply a hashed representation of the original serial. At a later point in time, when returned product needs to be validated (by a Wholesaler, for example) the POC (proof of concept) provided a verification application to each participant, built by SAP, which leverages OCR (optical character recognition) technology. The warehouse operator can simply scan the physical product, with our application loaded onto a mobile device, with the application again hashing the cleartext serial and providing an immediate response to the operator – indicating whether the product is legitimate (found in the blockchain) or potentially non-legitimate (and triggering a perspective second set of validations). Additional logic and capability in the application would show an audit trail of where (geographically) and upon which product line activity had taken place.

A delivery team was assembled across SAP Innovative Business Solutions, Ireland and Cryptowerk, and concise project plan developed, and by leveraging an agile approach adhering to core SAP delivery principles, with routine stand-ups and interfaces with our customers, SAP Innovative Business Solutions and Cryptowerk teams progressed through requirements gathering, technical implementation and development, rollout and user acceptance testing, culminating in an on-time (six week) and within scope deliverable. Last week, the team closed the UAT (User acceptance testing) phase, having released all in-scope deliverables, in an impressive and incredibly well received demo for our customers.

SAP TechEd was our dream from the very beginning – what better stage to present our concept to our colleagues and customers, and set the foundations to bring this concept forward into a commercially available application – valuable to the whole pharmaceutical industry.

The team are delighted to have been invited by Torsten Zube (head of blockchain at the SAP Innovation Centre Network) to present and demonstrate our concept, at SAP TechEd, next week, along with our customers. At the event, representatives from the SAP Innovative Business Solutions and Cryptowerk team will be present, connecting with our colleagues and customers, detailing the solution and providing the business and technological justifications how our concept and solution leads in the field.

Ross Doherty, Manager @ Innovative Business Solutions, Ireland.

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