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IBM, KPMG, Merck and Walmart to evaluate the use of blockchain in pharmaceutical product integrity

The program is intended to assist drug supply chain stakeholders in identifying and tracing certain prescription drugs.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

IBM, KPMG, Merck, and Walmart have announced that the companies have been selected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be included in a program in support of the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act that addresses requirements to identify, track and trace prescription medicines and vaccines distributed within the country.

The program is intended to assist drug supply chain stakeholders, including the FDA, in developing the electronic interoperable system that will identify and trace certain prescription drugs as they are distributed within the U.S.

Each company brings its own brand of expertise to the project, which will create a shared permissioned blockchain network that allows real-time monitoring of products. The proposed network is intended to help reduce the time needed to track and trace inventory; allow timely retrieval of reliable distribution information; increase accuracy of data shared among network members; and help determine the integrity of products in the distribution chain, including whether products are kept at the correct temperature.

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Walmart is already a member of IBM's Food Trust Network, working on blockchain for food safety. Suppliers of leafy green vegetables and other certain food products are required to upload their data to the blockchain.

Walmart will now use blockchain to track and trace its prescription drugs.

"With successful blockchain pilots in pork, mangoes and leafy greens that provide enhanced traceability, we are looking forward to the same success and transparency in the biopharmaceutical supply chain," said Karim Bennis, Walmart's vice president of strategic planning and implementation, Health and Wellness. "We believe we have to go further than offering great products that help our customers live better at everyday low prices. Our customers also need to know they can trust us to help ensure products are safe. This pilot and U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act requirements will help us do just that."

Blockchain is designed to establish a permanent record and may be integrated with existing supply chain and traceability systems.

"Blockchain could provide an important new approach to further improving trust in the biopharmaceutical supply chain," said Mark Treshock, IBM global solutions leader for Blockchain in Healthcare and Life Sciences. "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."


The Walmart pilot is seen as a potential template for drug supply blockchain.

In January, CVS Health and Walmart announced they had reached a multi-year agreement for Walmart to continue participating in the CVS Caremark pharmacy benefit management commercial and Managed Medicaid retail pharmacy network.

Walmart has faced competition in its pharmacy and other retail business from competitors such as Amazon, which last year offered a Prime discount to Medicaid members, a move seen as an attempt to siphon away those beneficiaries from the retail giant.


The pilot project brings transparency to the drug supply chain. Each drug will have a unique identifier that will allow for it to be tracked from manufacturer to pharmacy to consumer.

Twitter: @JELagasse
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