Researchers from Clemson are working on incorporating Blockchain into clinical trials for pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Their system would write clinical trial data to a Blockchain in real time, as the data is generated. Once the trial is over, the result will be a perfect, tamper-proof and immutable record.
Protecting the data
Clinical trials decide the fate of products or drugs that often cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop. As such, the incentives for altering data, even very slightly, can be huge. Using Blockchain for clinical trial data would not prevent that data from being altered before being written to the Blockchain. However, it would keep researchers or their corporate sponsors from going back and changing entries that have already been recorded.
Using Blockchain to create an immutable record would be a boon to consumers as well. In an era where class action lawsuits could cost medical companies billions of dollars, the pressure to go back and alter records in the face of a lawsuit is huge. With a Blockchain-based approach, that would be impossible.
Richard Brooks, one of the professors working on the idea of using Blockchain for clinical trial data, said:
“The chain is built by everyone signing their own data, using cryptography, to prove the data comes from them. Then all this information is interweaved together into blocks and connected ... so that to modify one of the things becomes very difficult and infeasible. This provides an audit trail so it can be verified that nobody’s modified the data.”
Brooks’ team is currently working on turning the idea into code and expects a working product in 2019.
Immutability is key
Using Blockchain’s ability to store data in an immutable, tamper-proof fashion could have far-reaching consequences in many areas of human endeavor. Just recently, the country of Sierra Leone conducted its presidential election using Blockchain to record the results. In a country with a history of political violence and government corruption, having the election results recorded in an unchangeable and fully auditable fashion is invaluable.