IBM, Walmart, KPMG, and Merck Join Forces to Track Drug Supply


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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a pilot blockchain-based program to help track pharmaceuticals from manufacturer to consumer. IBM, Walmart, KPMG, and Merck are the companies involved in the project according to a Reuters report from June 13, 2019. 

Compliant Drug Supply Chain from Industry Heads

The companies have been carefully chosen based on their expertise as well as their prior experience in the blockchain sector.

The biopharmaceutical business of Merck, called EMD Serono, signed an agreement with Nebula Genomics to allow access to genomic data from Nebula’s blockchain-based network. Walmart has worked with IBM since 2016 to improve traceability using blockchain technology across the food supply chain, and KPMG will contribute with its knowledge on the compliance issues.

The project aims to improve the processes of identification, tracking, and distribution of drugs and vaccines within the United States as described by the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). This will improve the FDA’s ability to help protect consumers from counterfeit, stolen, contaminated, or harmful drugs.

The pilot project will launch on permissioned blockchain from IBM and could rely on Walmart’s already-existing food tracking blockchain. Marck Treshock, a global blockchain solutions leader for healthcare and life sciences at IBM, explained that platforms by merely changing the reference asset.

The project consists in identifying each package of drugs with a unique code to facilitate tracking, beginning from the producer up to the consumer. In this way, the network will reportedly benefit from multiple advantages, including:

  • The time needed to track and trace inventory will be reduced.
  • Allow timely retrieval of reliable distribution information.
  • Increase the accuracy of data shared among network members.
  • Help determine the integrity of products in the distribution chain, including whether products are kept at the correct temperature.

The pilot project is scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2019, and results are expected to be published in an FDA DSCSA program report, as explained in the FAQ section on the FDA website.

This project represents another step towards using blockchain technology to improve product traceability. In particular, IBM is investing a lot of energy in developing DLT projects, to the point that is recognized as the leading enterprise blockchain provider.

IBM’s final goal is to create a blockchain platform or network on top of which other companies can build their applications.

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