Blockchain technology continues to spark interest in the supply chain industry for various reasons. Walmart and IBM have continuously been experimenting blockchain use cases and it seems they are putting together a solid initiative to tackle pharmaceutical supply chain measures.
In February 2019, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it planned to carry out a pilot blockchain project for the pharmaceutical industry. This project aimed to improve the traceability and security of the pharmaceuticals supply chain. Consequently, they would be able to ensure that counterfeit products did not enter the supply chain.
Blockchain Pilot Program
Four months later, IBM, Merck, Walmart, and KPMG announced that they had signed up for the pilot program. In the announcement, they said that this project would enable real-time monitoring of the pharmaceuticals supply chain. Besides that, it would help to improve the reliability of data shared amongst them.
After the pilot study, IBM, Merck, and Walmart have now announced the formation of a blockchain alliance called Pharmaceutical Utility Network (PhUN). The alliance will make compliance easier with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act. Other issues it will enable them to deal with are drug recalls, drug shortages, and processing data from clinical trials. According to IBM, the blockchain alliance will be an open-source platform that empowers stakeholders to comply with the regulation.
THE DSCSA Legislation
The DSCSA legislation was created to fight against counterfeit products in the pharmaceutical industry. It is estimated that the counterfeits sector is worth around $200 billion globally. These counterfeit products put the lives of patients around the world at risk. According to IBM, about 70% of all drugs in some nations are counterfeit.
The legislation requires that all those participating in the pharmaceuticals supply chain provide digital records of all their transactions. The goal is to make it easy to trace the origin of certain prescription drugs and how they are distributed inside the US.
According to the IBM announcement, a pilot study using PhUN was able to reduce the time needed to trace drugs from 16 weeks to just seconds. With the platform, users can find, investigate, and report drugs they suspect to be counterfeit.
Pharma Supply Chain
IBM intends to launch this project to cover the entire drug supply chain to ensure compliance with DSCSA requirements. This platform can track and trace drug products from the moment they leave the factory to the point they are sold at the pharmacy.
This is not the first time Walmart and IBM are working together on a blockchain project. Walmart has already signed up for the IBM Food Trust blockchain alliance. As part of its commitment to the alliance, all suppliers of fresh green have to take part in the project. The aim is to trace the origin of all food products and eliminate the spread of dangerous pathogens such as E. coli.
In general, supply chains have taken a liking to the blockchain. It helps them to reduce costs and improve the speed at which transactions are processed. For instance, Oman’s largest port recently joined the TradeLens blockchain platform. With the benefits of using blockchain technology continuing to be seen around the world, blockchain adoption will likely pick up steam amongst large companies in 2020 and beyond.
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