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IBM, Boehringer Ingelheim to explore blockchain for clinical trials

clinical trials

Today at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Florida, the Canadian subsidiaries of IBM and German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim announced plans to explore blockchain for clinical trials.

The companies plan to test whether blockchain can help with data integrity, the provenance of tests, transparency and patient empowerment. In 2017 Boehringer Ingelheim had revenues of $22 billion and is one of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Uli Brödl, Vice President, Medical and Regulatory Affairs, Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) said: “The clinical trial ecosystem is highly complex as it involves different stakeholders, resulting in limited trust, transparency and process inefficiencies without true patient empowerment. Patients are at the heart of everything we do, so we are looking into novel solutions to improve patient safety and empowerment.”

IBM says it will contribute core blockchain technologies for patient consent, secure health data exchange and patient engagement. “We’ve been using blockchain in other industries, and we are now investigating how we can use this technology to give Canadian patients the same level of security and trust when it comes to their personal health information,” said Claude Guay, General Manager, IBM Services, IBM Canada.

In January IBM announced a new blockchain-based healthcare ecosystem with health insurance companies Aetna, Anthem, Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) and PNC Bank. That project will also involve health data exchanges.

There’s been a lot of blockchain pharmaceutical activity around compliance with the U.S. DSCSA legislation. And the FDA recently announced plans to experiment with blockchain for DSCSA. Boehringer Ingelheim is involved in the SAP pharmaceutical traceability solution.

Outside of that, in Europe, the Innovative Medicine Initiative (IMI) a public/private initiative in conjunction with the European Union is exploring a variety of pharma-related blockchain topics. This may include clinical trials, but Boehringer Ingelheim is not one of the ten companies involved.

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