Introduction:At present time various types of databases are available in medical science. These databases are heterogeneous and distributed, due to which utilization of available knowledge which is present in form of data, is not achieved properly. By integrating these data, its utilization can be increased effectively. For drugs related information which is quite distributed and heterogeneous, such type of integration can be used to develop an effective knowledge base. Currently, to retrieve information like originality of a drug, ingredient details etc are tedious work and are complex. Due to lack of proper information or knowledge, it is very difficult to restrict counterfeiting of drugs. In recent survey FDA found that counterfeit medicines are estimated as more than 10% of the global medicines market. In some developing countries it is thought to be as high as 50%. This practice causes several deaths world wide.
It also diminishes public confidence in both health care providers and the medicine supply chain. Currently, there are several techniques used to check originality of drugs. RFID technique is one among several techniques to identify the counterfeited medicines. In this technique, an electronic chip is used that emits radio frequency waves encoding a specific code or ID. This information is captured by a specialized chip reader at several node of supply chain. The major problem with RFID technology is its cost and readability. Another technique for drug identification is ePedigree (Electronic Pedigree). This technique is still under development and not implemented till now. In this technique some pedigree standards are used, which keep track of the drug supply chain. As the product moves down the supply chain, each company is required to carry forward all previous epedigree information. In this way, the final point of sale has the complete lineage of every unit. Proposed system is similar to epedigree but basic difference is use of semantic webstandards. Proposed system uses semantic web techniques to keep track of entire supply chain. Along with providing information about originality of medicine, it also provides all related information to a particular drug.
Design of the framework: The entire framework is based on semantic web concept. The framework has various modules like drug search engine, drug verification, drug transaction at various level of supply chain, etc. Drug verification module enables user to perform drug verification. By entering batch number (or any unique identifier of the salable unit) and medicine name user will be able to verify whether a drug is original or not. Similarly using drug search engine one can get every detail associated with particular drug. Drugs transaction module will be present at various level of drug supply chain. Every node of the supply chain will have its one transaction page. All portals will be associated with a centralized system. This centralized system interacts with portals and databases. Centralized system interacts with databases directly. But whenever data is requested by centralized system, it will be first transformed into RDF format; afterwards it will be given to the system. So, the framework is totally independent of format of the data. Data can be in the form of PDF, WebPages, Spreadsheets, but finally it will be given to system in homogeneous format i.e. RDF format.
How semantic web is used to design the framework: Before coming on this point let’s first discuss about semantic web and its components. Semantic Web is in development since 1990s when commercial Internet applications were still unimaginable by many business people. In its essence it is an extension of the technologies that brought the World Wide Web (WWW) to life. The Semantic Web was thought up by Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the WWW, URIs, a way that’s easy for humans to understand. Even though they are central to creating and maintaining the Web, the computers themselves really can’t make sense of all this information. They can’t read, see relationships or make decisions like humans can. The Semantic Web proposes to help computers “read” and use the Web. The big idea is pretty simple metadata added to Web pages can make the existing World Wide Web machine readable.It will give machines tools to find exchange and interpret the information. The semantic web will bring structure to the web and make it a much more useful and user-friendly resource. At its heart, it’s just a way to describe things in a way that a computer can understand. Now, coming on the component of the semantic web, the core components of semantic web technology are:
1. XML as generic serialization syntax with mature tool support,
2. RDF as a data model for the representation of Semantic Networks in a distributed fashion,
3. Ontology languages like RDF-S, OWL, for the representation of a domain of discourse.
Resource Description Framework (RDF): It is a language for representing information about resources that reside in and can be HTTP, and HTML. Today, a great deal of human interpretation is required to understand much of the information conveyed as hypertext on Web pages. The sites that are visited every day use natural language, images and page layout to present information in accessed via the internet infrastructure. RDF gives a way to make statements that are machine- processable. An RDF statement is like a simple sentence, except that almost all the words are URIs. Each RDF statement has three parts: a subject, a property and an object. Let’s make a sentence readable to a computer:
“Bextra is manufactured by Pfizer”. Here the statement “Bextra is manufactured by Pfizer.” can be divided into triplets. “Bextra” is a subject, “Pfizer” is object and “manufactured by” is a property.
How to restrict counterfeiting of drug in supply chain:
Counterfeited medicine can be intruded at any level of the supply chain. To keep track of a particular medicine, it is needed to make all transaction through a centralized system. Since all nodes of supply chain will be related to each other in class, subclass hierarchy, so every single node will be aware its predecessor and successor nodes.The centralized system keeps track of total number of particular type of drugs supplied to or from one node to another node. So, centralized system closely monitors that how many drugs are sold from previous node to a node and how many drugs are sold from that node to next node. Whenever number or quantity of drug at a node crosses particular limit automatically further transaction at that node will be restricted.When drug’s quantity reaches at particular limit (here it is 0) at pharmacy, automatically system restricts it from further transaction. When pharmacy requests for supply of drugs to city distributor then, city distributor grants permission to pharmacy and drugs are supplied. Now, the restriction imposed at pharmacy level is invoked and transactions restart. So, by this fashion intrusion of counterfeited drugs can be restricted at various level of supply chain.
Result and Discussion: Medical data like drug information which is quite scattered and distributed can be brought together to generate an effective knowledgebase. This knowledge base can be used to perform variety of task like drug search, restriction of counterfeited drug etc. The developed framework brings data from various sources and it provides a common platform to perform various operations like drug verification, drug search, content wise search of drugs, and transaction of medicine at different level of supply chain. It also enables user (administrator) to store information about medicines in RDF format. Since all details about medicine are in standard RDF format so, precise search result can be generated easily.
The developed framework is quite effective than other existing methodologies in preventing counterfeiting of medicines. The major advantage of the developed system is its availability. It is easily available to a common man. It does not need laboratory or complex instruments. Also, it will be cost effective for all its stake holders. It needs first time investment, otherwise it will available to user at very nominal price. Since entire application will be available on World Wide Web so, it is accessible form every place. In fact end user can use hand held device like mobile phones to access it. Another factor which provides edge to the developed system over other methodology is reliability. Since entire application will be monitored by centralized system so, there is very less chance for error.
There are some issues like security, transaction control, and traffic management, exist which are major concerns for the developed system. But these issues can be sort out by little research and work.
Conclusion: Technologies like semantic web can be used to provide enhanced and reliable health care service since it associates meaning to the data so, it is effective in generation of knowledge base to manage various aspect of the health care system. Restriction of counterfeited medicine is an important aspect of health care system and it can be effectively achieved using this technology. By restricting intrusion of counterfeited medicine in supply chain, it is possible to save several lives.At the same time from the commercial point of view; it would be very helpful for the drug industry in restricting the loss of possible revenues due to counterfeiting. Also it helps to build confidence of people in healthcare system.