The retailer and biopharmaceutical company Merck, along with IT company IBM and professional services firm KPMG, are participating in a program for the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), a 2013 regulation that is being phased in over the course of a decade and seeks to build an electronic system to trace certain prescription drugs as they are distributed in the U.S.
According to an announcement, Walmart and its partners will focus on creating a shared blockchain network to monitor Merck products as they are dispensed through the retailer’s U.S. pharmacies.
“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,” said Mark Treshock, global blockchain leader for healthcare and life sciences at IBM, which is providing blockchain technology for the project. “Blockchain has the potential to transform how pharmaceutical data is controlled, managed, shared and acted upon throughout the lifetime history of a drug.”
Merck did not respond to a request for comment, so it wasn’t clear which of its drugs will be included. However, examples of Merck products include allergy medicine Clarinex, osteoporosis drug Fosamax, HPV vaccine Gardasil, cancer drug Keytruda and male pattern hair loss treatment Propecia.
In an email, Treshock said it is applicable to all prescription drugs dispensed in the U.S., but the company “intentionally kept the pilot to a small group of committed participants.”
The pilot is expected to conclude in the fourth quarter.
A spokesperson for the FDA said it will share new approaches evaluated in this program with the broader drug supply chain community thereafter.
“Our goal is to ensure that all parties…