- IBM, Walmart, KPMG and Merck & Co. said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration chose them to be part of a blockchain pilot program designed to track and ensure the integrity of prescription medicines and vaccines.
- The companies said they expect to complete the program in the fourth quarter of this year, with results slated for publication in an FDA report.
- Participants "will evaluate next steps" after the conclusion of the pilot, the companies said in a joint statement Thursday.
The four industry powerhouses are the latest to tackle the need for an interoperable system that can track and trace medications across the supply chain. The Drug Supply Chain Security Act, passed by Congress in 2013, requires that such a system be in place by 2023.
Using a shared permission blockchain network, the companies said they will be able to offer real-time monitoring of medical products. The partners will be able to access distribution information, trace inventory and determine product integrity, with data such as temperature control.
The blockchain network will also establish a permanent record and may be able to connect to existing systems used for the supply chain and tracing products, the companies said. The ability to access cloud infrastructure is making blockchain systems more affordable and adaptable, according to KPMG.
Walmart said it has deployed successful blockchain pilot projects in pork, mangoes and leafy greens and is now ready to bring its knowledge to the healthcare industry.
The new pilot is the latest in a series of recent announcements about blockchain's application to pharmaceuticals. Earlier this year, SAP debuted a blockchain technology hub with the potential to help keep counterfeit drugs off the market. And in 2018, drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline said it was working with Viant, an Ethereum-based blockchain platform built for supply chains.
Before those initiatives, Chronicled and LinkLab set up a joint venture called The MediLedger Project, designed to explore blockchain systems for the drug industry. Drugmakers Genentech, Pfizer and Gilead, as well as distributors AmerisourceBergen and McKesson, are part of a working group assisting The MediLedger Project.
"Blockchain has the potential to transform how pharmaceutical data is controlled, managed, shared and acted upon throughout the lifetime history of a drug," said Mark Treshock, IBM's global solutions leader for blockchain in healthcare & life sciences, in the June 13 joint statement.