The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recruited four companies to participate in a pilot project to use blockchain to identify, track and trace prescription medicines and vaccines distributed within the United States. According to the announcement, IBM (NYSE: IBM), Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK), Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and KPMG have all agreed to take part in the project. The group will be tasked with developing the technology for an interoperable, shared network that will allow for real-time monitoring of products.
The pilot program is being conducted in support of the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). The DSCSA, enacted by Congress on November 27, 2013, is meant to improve the FDA’s ability to help protect consumers from counterfeit, contaminated, or harmful drugs. This pilot project is scheduled for completion by the fourth quarter of 2019. An FDA DSCSA program report containing the results will be published after the project has ended.
Each of the four companies have a particular part to play in the pilot project. The pilot will operate on IBM’s permissioned blockchain, with IBM acting as the technology partner. The pilot will trace various vaccines and prescription medicines from Merck, with Walmart acting as the drug distributor through its pharmacies and care clinics. KPMG provides a comprehensive understanding of the compliance issues.
Blockchain is the ideal application for this pilot due to the high-level of transparency it provides. The goal is to give each drug package a unique trackable identifier that can be traced through the supply chain from manufacturer to pharmacy to consumer. The blockchain would provide authorities and participants with an easy audit trail of each transaction in the process.
This is the second blockchain pilot involving Walmart to be announced in as many weeks. Last week, reports emerged that Walmart was participating in another pilot involving the three largest pharmaceutical wholesalers and some pharmaceutical manufacturers. The company also participates in IBM’s Food Trust, which is used to track the movement of fruits and vegetables from the farm to the grocery aisle.