Artificial intelligence to support medication safety

The directive on falsified medicinal products introduces changes to the everyday tasks in pharmacies. In addition to equipment and system investments, a new task is added to the routine when the authenticity of medicine packages is ensured using the national medicine verification system. While the reform improves medication safety, it also makes it possible to get a deep insight into the health of the nation.

In Finland, a total of 60 million prescriptions are written every year. In the future, prescription medicine packages should be verified in the national medicine verification system. This would enable the mining of the collected data using artificial intelligence.

“This would give us valuable information in terms of effectiveness on the use of medicines in different provinces and on the kind of problems it reflects. We would also be able to analyse the cost-effectiveness of medicines. It would be very interesting to mine the data collected in the system if a connection to the system was opened,” says Mr Topi Hanhela, the Director of Customer Relations & Business Development at the Pharmaceutical Information Centre.

Artificial intelligence answers medicine-related questions

The Pharmaceutical Information Centre has also harnessed artificial intelligence to serve the purposes of giving advice on medicines. The future vision is that the 2D codes on medicine packages direct to a web service intended for consumers where artificial intelligence answers simple questions regarding illnesses and medicines. Consumers would have access to the service using their smartphones.

“We have got a huge database containing information on different illnesses and medicines for the artificial intelligence to utilise. There is already data in text format in Finnish and Swedish at Lää,” Mr Hanhela explains.

The new service would be a chat-type user interface with speech or text control. The consumer would also be able to contact a health care professional, when necessary.

Finished in February 2019

First, the functionality of the basics of the verification of the authenticity of medicine packages must be ensured. The reform requires pharmacies to invest in 2D scanners. Hospital pharmacies verify the authenticity of medicines at the reception, and pharmacies do so when the medicines are sold to customers at the prescription submission desk. To enable this, pharmacy and hospital pharmacy systems must be connected to the medicine verification system.

“This is an EU-wide data system project to make sure that the medicine supply chain is unbroken. Knowing where a medicine package has been delivered also makes medicine control and possible withdrawal from the market easier,” Mr Hanhela adds.

At the moment, pharmaceutical companies are connecting to the common medicine verification system, and at the turn of the year the first pharmacies and wholesalers will begin the work. In addition to the 2D codes, medicine packages will be secured against tampering. The mechanism may be an adhesive label, for example, that helps to make sure that medicine packages have not been opened before being taken into use. These measures will help fight the falsification of pharmaceutical products.

“In February 2019, everything should be finalised. The investments in equipment by Finnish pharmacies are fairly well underway already, and the pharmacy data system providers are currently updating their systems,” says Mr Hanhela.

The company supplying and managing the medicine verification system, the Finnish Medicine Verification Organisation (FiMVO) Ltd., on the other hand, is drawing up the common rules that ensure the smooth transition of the new practices to the everyday operations of pharmacies and other operators in the pharmaceutical industry.

“Instructions are needed for exceptional situations in particular, such as issues in reading the 2D code. The verification is a new step in delivering medicines. It should run smoothly so the customers will not have to wait. There are still many causes for confusion for the people who work in pharmacies, but that is exactly why we and the Finnish Medicine Verification Organisation are here to help them: we offer consulting and organise training regarding the issue.

“We offer pharmaceutical companies an easy channel that they can use for reporting the package information covered by the medicine verification system in connection with other product declarations. The information is important to all the operators that take part in the distribution of medicines, particularly wholesalers, pharmacies and hospital pharmacies,” Mr Hanhela says.

More information

Topi Hanhela, Director, Customer Relations & Business Development

Pharmaceutical Information Centre Ltd
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The article was originally published in the Icon News magazine in 2017.

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