Canadian subsidiaries of Boehringer Ingelheim and IBM have partnered to employ blockchain technology for improving the quality and record keeping in clinical trials.

The companies noted that their alliance would be the first to explore the technology in a clinical trial in the country.

According to regulatory authorities, processes used to maintain the quality of trials are commonly found to be inadequate, and the trial records are mostly erroneous or incomplete.

These types of discrepancies could be a risk for patient safety and trial interpretability, the companies added.

Boehringer and IBM intend to assess the use of blockchain as a decentralised framework in clinical trials to allow data integrity, provenance, transparency, patient empowerment and automation of processes.

The result is expected to improve trial quality and patient safety at a lower cost.

Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Medical and Regulatory Affairs vice-president Uli Brödl 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.”

Under the alliance, IBM Canada will deliver the core blockchain technologies that provide patient consent, secure health data exchange and patient engagement.

IBM Canada Services general manager Claude Guay said: “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.”