The FDA Partners with Walmart, IBM, Merck to Improve Pharma Supply Chain via Blockchain

The FDA Gets Into Blockchain

The United States’ federal agency, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has partnered up with four high profile firms to launch a pilot program to apply blockchain technology in the drug supply chain, Reuters reported on June 13.

IBM, Walmart, Big Four auditor KPMG, and Merck are the four big names that the FDA has tapped for the implementation of a Proof-of-Concept (PoC) blockchain network to share and track data on the distribution of prescription drugs.

Blockchain has long been hailed as the holy grail of software technologies in many sectors, including in the medical field. Blockchain has all the tools it needs to efficiently collect, share and track sensitive patient and drugs data is in a standardized, smart and secure way. Blockchain’s immutability, security, transparency, and robustness make it the most reliable candidate for such a critical job. This collaboration between the FDA and the four companies could further kickstart the realization of blockchain’s potential in the medical field.

According to the report, the FDA is hoping to optimize the supply chain of pharma products with the help of blockchain. The initiative aims to speed up the process of tracking inventory. Furthermore, blockchain will also help with the accuracy and integrity of the data shared.

Mark Treshock, IBM Global Solutions Leader for Blockchain in Healthcare & Life Sciences, stated:

“Blockchain has the potential to transform how pharmaceutical data is controlled, managed, shared and acted upon throughout the lifetime history of a drug.”

He was of the view that while there are other ways to do the same thing without relying on the blockchain, it is the ideal application of blockchain technology. “[Blockchain] not only provides an audit trail that tracks drugs within the supply chain, but it can track who has shared data and with whom, without revealing the data itself,” he said.

The project is scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of 2019. The results of the pilot project will be published in an FDA DSCSA program report. “This pilot is just the first step. We envision this as being an industry utility in which applications can be built to meet compliance requirements, while ensuring patient safety worldwide,” said IBM’s Treschock.

The FDA first revealed its plans to apply blockchain technology to enable a digital drug supply chain platform in February 2019. However, the expected launch date for the platform was said to be 2023.

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