Walmart Joins Blockchain Working Group For Pharma Tracking

Retail giant Walmart is the latest big corporation to join MediLedger – a blockchain working group tasked with exploring ways to secure supply chain management for pharmaceutical products.

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With the enactment of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) in 2013, greater interoperability has become a priority issue for drug makers and distributors. Pfizer, Premier, McKesson, Genentech and other firms have already onboarded with MediLedger and, like Walmart, will be collaborating on an “industry-owned permissioned blockchain network of the pharmaceutical sector based on open standards and specifications.”

The MediLedger project was launched in 2017 by Silicon Valley startup Chronicled – a company that provides enterprise supply chain solutions – and brings together industry leaders with a system designed to safeguard the logistics infrastructure. Healthcare generally consists of large, conservative companies that have historically been very comfortable in their industry silos but buy-in for blockchain encryption is growing.

“Blockchain technology may hold a key to establishing a trusted network of information that both industry partners and regulators can rely on to aid in maintaining the security of the legitimate supply chain and thwarting the behavior of nefarious players,” said Center for Supply Chain Studies founder Bob Celeste.

If the initiative is successful, everyone from drug manufacturers and wholesalers to hospitals and health clinics will be logging drug deliveries on a blockchain network. As for what this would look like in practice, a network of computers would verify the origin and authenticity of a shipment whenever someone received a delivery of pharmaceutical goods. In theory, this would happen at every stage of the distribution process and, consequently, make it more challenging for thieves and counterfeiters to interfere with the products.

“It’s distributed, it’s decentralized, and the data is private,” explained Chronicled CEO Susanne Sommerville in a statement. “Even though Chronicled is providing the technology, industry users operate the software themselves.”

Another layer of security comes from the fact no one individual or organization owns the system. It operates as a series of permission-based nodes controlled by each participant in the network. Transactions require participant consensus on certain details without having to share other kinds of information with member users.

As an early adopter of blockchain technology, Genentech sees their work with MediLedger as a natural next step to adding unique identifiers to make their products traceable.

“Ensuring the safety of people receiving our medicines is of utmost importance to us,” said Mark Watrous, Genentech’s senior vice president of managed care and customer operations. “We look forward to exploring the potential benefits that this pilot could provide in protecting our medicines across the entire supply chain.”