Blockchain Pilot Programs Take Off in Pharma
By Agnes Shanley
For the past few years, the pharmaceutical industry has been taking a much closer look at blockchain. Preventing drug counterfeiting is a key focus, as are preventing more than $1 billion in pharma cargo theft and $7 billion in drug returns each year (1).
Early efforts to examine blockchain’s potential in pharma began in 2017 (2). Among the groups working on collaborative pilot projects to evaluate blockchain in pharma is the MediLedger Project, a group of 25 pharmaceutical manufacturers, leading pharma distributors, and major retail pharmacies (3).
Since that time, the industry has made progress. In January 2020, a study by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General (4) found that product ownership (if not full e-pedigree) could be traced with existing technologies. MediLedger’s final blockchain pilot study report (5) showed that the technology could be used to meet the US Drug Supply Chain Safety Act’s track and trace requirements. Although it noted the need for more industry standards in a number of critical areas, the study pointed to blockchain’s potential to improve data synchronization, asset exchange, and overall business process automation.
1. A. McCauley, “Why Pharma is Betting on Blockchain” hbr.org, May 2020.
2. A. Shanley, “Could Blockchain Improve Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Security?” Pharmaceutical Technology Outsourcing Resources Supplement (August 2017).
3. LedgerInsights blog, “FDA to Run Pharma Blockchain Pilots,” ledgerinsights.com, December 2019.
4. S. Morrin, “Ownership—But Not Physical Movement—of Selected Drugs Can Be Traced Through the Supply Chain,” US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, oig.hhs.gov, February 2020.
5. M. Sample, MediLedger DSCA Pilot Project Final Report, mediledger.com, 2019.