OPERATIONS

Walmart selected for pharmaceutical supply chain pilot

BY Dan Berthiaume

Walmart will help test the effectiveness of a leading-edge technology in tracking and tracing prescription medicines and vaccines distributed within the U.S.

Walmart, consulting firm KPMG, and pharmaceutical company Merck have been chosen by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be included in a program in support of the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). The pilot is intended to assist drug supply chain stakeholders, including FDA, in developing an electronic, interoperable system that will identify and trace certain prescription drugs as they are distributed within the country.

The project is intended to 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.

DSCSA was enacted by Congress in November 2013. It outlines steps to build an electronic, interoperable system to identify and trace certain prescription drugs as they are distributed in the U.S. Blockchain is designed to establish a permanent record and may be integrated with existing supply chain and traceability systems. The pilot will leverage the cloud-based IBM blockchain platform.

“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 VP 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.”

The pilot project is scheduled to be completed in fourth quarter of 2019, and results are expected to be published in an FDA DSCSA program report. At that time, the project’s participants will evaluate next steps.

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