Walmart Joins Drug-Verification Blockchain Pilot with IBM, KPMG, and Merck

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Photo: Walmart

On Thursday, multinational retail corporation Walmart announced their participation in a drug-verification pilot based on using the distributed ledger technology. Other participants include IBM, KPMG, and drug producer Merck. The pilot is backed by the US Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) and is aimed to explore the ways blockchain technology can identify suspicious products and speed the recall process when needed for the future.

The pilot project is part of programs conducted at the request of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and aimed to help identify and trace the distribution of prescription drugs.

The FDA Pilot Program website reads:

“FDA’s DSCSA Pilot Project Program is intended to assist drug supply chain stakeholders, including FDA, in developing the electronic, interoperable system that will identify and trace certain prescription drugs as they are distributed within the United States.”

Due to the project, multiple issues in the current drug supply chain process can be solved, including the time it takes to track and trace inventory, the accuracy of data shared among members of the supply network, and the integrity of products in the distribution chain.

Mark Treshock, IBM’s global solutions leader for Blockchain in Healthcare & Life Sciences, commented:

Blockchain could provide an important new approach to further improving trust in the biopharmaceutical supply chain. We believe this is an ideal use for the technology because it can not only provide an audit trail that tracks drugs within the supply chain; it can track who has shared data and with whom, without revealing the data itself. Blockchain has the potential to transform how pharmaceutical data is controlled, managed, shared and acted upon throughout the lifetime history of a drug.”

He added:

“The project with KPMG Merck and Walmart, even though it’s a pilot, is going to be leveraging the production blockchain platforms that we have developed for Walmart with FoodTrust and also with Maersk in TradeLens. So, it’s not just a science experiment.”

In the pilot, IBM will act as the technology partner, KPMG will share their experience in the compliance issues, Merck is a drugmaker, and Walmart will be a drug distributor through its pharmacies and care clinics.

Craig Kennedy, senior vice president of supply chain at Merck, said:

“Our supply chain strategy, planning and logistics are built around the customers and patients we serve. Reliable and verifiable supply helps improve confidence among all the stakeholders we serve—especially patients—while also strengthening the foundation of our business.”

The pilot project will be complete in the last quarter of 2019, and results will be published in an FDA DSCSA program report.

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