In the field of DLT (distributed ledger technology), Walmart is not any newcomer. In the early month of October 2016, a collaboration was seen between IBM and a multinational food distributor for a system (blockchain based system) which aims at revealing and giving a flag to the “recalled foods.” It was the time which led to such a separation into several trials and patents. For instance, chasing up with the track record of meat in China, tracking all the “live food” in the U.S., keeping a track on the distributed drones, and getting all the smart delivered options patented.
Additionally, Walmart came up with an announcement turning towards the application of a “blockchain technology.” It sheds light on the collaboration between Walmart and Food & Drug Administration along with the coexistence of KPMG, IBM, and Merck – showcasing the working process towards the evolution of evidence of the blockchain concept for the purpose of revealing and keeping a track record for the drugs.
When looking into other experiments of Walmart (all blockchain based experiments), it is clear that this current attempt would not turn into a progress attempt reaching far away from the trial level and the involved parties can make a move towards certain other things after the completion of the pilot.
Though, it is clear that the initiation of the pilot is granted under the specified terms given by DSCSA (Drug Supply Chain Security Act) and by the time period of 2023, it demands for the origination of a proper practical electronic system for the purpose of recognizing and ensuring the presence of tracking records of drugs. It is possible that the “blockchain technology” will come into emergence in the final phase to some extent.
Understanding the meaning and working process
During the month of February, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) came up with an announcement regarding the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) Pilot Project program. They also sent an invitation to the companies having an interest in the project to send the participating applications. Since it is made clear by the assisting press release, the program aims at raising up the activities related to authentication and tracking of the particular drugs mentioned in prescription and to keep all the illegal or counterfeit drugs stand away from the chain of supply.
In February, Scott Gottlieb (FDA Commissioner) gave a statement:
“With the help of the latest inventions, it is possible for us to reach an improved stage for the closed system security and raise up the potential to come up with the presence of all products falling under the category of illegitimate, imply a proper detection phase for the illegitimate items, provide stakeholders with the authority, and quick responses from the FDA when all the illegitimate items come into presence.”
When the initial declaration came into the presence, the FDA was kept open to a number of beneficial proposals which come up with the new and latest technology. Though, it is important for all the blockchain technology-based proposals to be convincing in nature since during the month of June, all the likes from Walmart, IBM, Merck, and KPMG showed up with a declaration that they would act as a joint team to support and work with the FDA on the initial trial stage phasing out the usage points associated with blockchain.
Merck, a pharmaceutical company released a statement saying that each particular applicant should lead into the contribution to their respective ideas, skills, and expert knowledge for the newly raised pilot, which ultimately will result into the creation of a “combined permissioned blockchain network” that also features an actual time-based product monitoring process. When the question was raised – Why it is possible that the blockchain stands as a superior option for easy tracking methods of all the drug prescriptions as compared to other invented technologies?, Charles McCurdy (Merck’s director of global communications) responded to Cointelegraph:
“With the presence of a permissioned network of blockchain, it is possible to raise up a high level of transparency, decrease the tracking time, trace all the inventory with ease, participate in the resolution of products uprightness (including the temperature and other factors), avoid all the forged drugs, and so on.”
KPMG (another contributing applicant in the pilot) is showing an equal level of motivation by blockchain promise (stated for supply chains of drugs). Arun Ghosh (blockchain leader in the U.S.) also dropped an email to Cointelegraph regarding the explanation that DLT is non-harming and helpful for ensuring ease in all the chains, which may even rise in a labyrinthine way.
In the “DSCSA Pilot Project Program,” all the actual members and the actual figures mentioned within the industry (both logistics and blockchain industry) also show an agreed attitude on the fact that DLT turns out to be an ideal option for the purpose of keeping a track record of all the pharmaceuticals movement, mainly for the reason that it is highly interoperable and immutable.
Raja Sharif (CEO of FarmaTrust, a medical blockchain company) speaks with Cointelegraph and stated that:
“Blockchain lies under the category of being interoperable and immutable, which are the yardsticks for fighting against all the tinker associated with the movement chain, which counts as an essential thing to avoid inferior and forged drugs occupying a space in the supply chain of pharmaceuticals. Apart from this, blockchain also features a propensity to reflect the data (generated from several systems) aggregation in an efficient manner.”
Without any doubt, it is obvious that blockchain word is specifically mentioned in numerous contexts, even when any central or notable role of the DLT is not easily traceable in any kind of system which is present in its association. For example, Visa’s latest system which is operated on the basis of the blockchain.
Though, when talking about the latest pilot (FDA) case, the system or platform which is under construction will eventually turn out to be an exclusive blockchain, as compared to another type of system which relies on either 1 or 2 blockchain technology features for usage purposes. When getting deep down into this case, it is revealed that there is no reflection on the usage of DLT in the project, McCurdy also showed conformance to the revealed thing. McCurdy also made an additional statement which points to the fact that the developed ledger will also turn out to be useful for recording certain information such as product’s date or time, storage temperature during the transportation phase, and so on.
The newly originated ledger won’t also be restricted to record all the relevant information in order to ensure quality and legitimacy, but it will also apply the principles which are secured cryptographically as explained by McCurdy: “It would be a great way to keep all the information stored in a proper rigid format which would turn out be a guarantee for all those who hold a proper permission to employ the system in usage and that all the stored information is present in connection with the described product. It would even be known as a networked, permissioned, and distributed ledger. Certain uses include tracing of medicines and vaccines from the supply chain manufacturer to the ultimate customer.”
KPMG’s Ghosh also show some light on the fact that the ultimate focus of pilot will be laid on employing the usage of “blockchain technology” in a peculiar manner in order to ensure the presence of two features which are reliability and efficiency throughout the pharmaceutical tracking process: “The pilot’s main intention lies in carving out how to employ blockchain technology in order to bring down each product’s tracking time, employ a faster means for retrieving original information regarding the distribution of drug, raise the information precision which will be shared among all the members in the network and block all the forged items way to take a space in the supply chain. GLN (Global Location Number) will be released for dictating all the relevant information related to location, along with the event detail (whether it is passing through shipping, dispensing, or receiving phase) will be directly stored by blockchain and will turn out to view only with the permission.”
For the purpose of a conclusive example, the pilot would perform a function of involving all the latest drugs manufactured with the registration specifications (numbers) and stored in the blockchain. It will be the time when the shipping will start to all the merchants and retailers, every single point of supply chain process would also be kept in the ledger stored along with the movement. Though, it would be possible for the drug receivers to keep a check on the drugs incoming to them with the help of records maintained securely in the dispensed database.
As explained from Sharif, with such advanced system, it would be difficult to supply the forged drugs in a covert manner: “Since it is evident that all newly printed labels are needed to pass on the registration process in the US. Further, the central authorities pay keen attention to issue them in the regions of Europe, which ultimately creates obstacles for the delinquents to break or invade the smooth flow of the supply chain (pharmaceutical supply). All the process is not only restricted with such limitations since there is an automatic alert which gets generated when two separate labels come into the system and it will alert all the authorities to take action against it. In addition, another layer of protection includes that in case, any label which should land in the regions of Sweden, but has been passed to Canada, then it will also be concluded as a suspicious activity.”
Indeed, it doesn’t end all here only, since apart from gaining the recorded details of licit drugs and packaging replica, all the fake identities need to control the “permissioned ledger” for succeeding. In addition to that, it is also necessary to take out all the legal drugs from the supply chain since it is clearly warned by Sharif that all the drugs which are having a replica record would further be considered to the ledger access phase.
It sounds great, but…
Throughout the existing drug or pharmaceutical supply chain context, blockchain technology gives a clear representation of huge potential. In a simplified manner, it is understood that any guarantee is not attached to the fact that anything which is actually permanent in nature will emerge from the “FDA-led Pilot.” Since McCurdy talks with Cointelegraph that the complete project of blockchain is only the 1 standing out from the remaining 20 which FDA gives a green-light while being a part of the DSCSA program. It hints about the presence of a chance that FDA would declare an announcement in favor of the pilot which is not going to break the “blockchain-based technology” in any kind of significant manner.
In fact, FDA also explained Cointelegraph that it always stands out in open status for all the other technologies focusing on tracking means related to drugs supply, counting all those which are not existing with any basis of blockchain. A clear statement falls from the mouth of FDA communicator: “FDA is taking an active participation in searching out all the technologies with a huge potential to bring ease for the supply chain traders to keep an accurate drugs tracking record throughout the movement from the revelation of all the drugs which even may fall in a state of being stolen or defiled. Blockchain emerges out as a technology which is standing in the research process for all the drug or medicine verification and tracing. FDA is on an open status for inviting all the useful methods and technologies within the DSCSA Pilot Project Program.”
Nevertheless, it is great to carve out light on the fact that DSCSA makes a necessary phase for FDA to apply any kind of interoperable plan or system and employ it in the drug tracing process by the time period of 2023. Since there is a need for the system to stand in the category of being interoperable, the selected system will stand in the open status for all the members who are employed within the supply chain process for drugs, a necessity which can be easily fulfilled with a “blockchain-based system.”
KPMG and Mersk stand in a similar stage with a firm belief:
“The project comes into emergence with the aim to carve out how to employ blockchain technology in order to reveal, detect, and trace all the vaccines and drugs during their entrance and movement phase throughout the regions of the U.S.”
Ghosh also has a firm belief that the latest invented pilot will be beneficial to reach a demonstration regarding blockchain power and potential. He knows that the trial phase would run within a small-scale, however, he also knows that the pharmaceutical industry could gain helpful benefits with DLT: “Considering the case, it is possible to speak that the creation of an interoperable system without the supply chain for pharmaceutical would not give easy results, irrespective of the fact that a blockchain is a suitable option in it. Though, it is good, to begin with bijou projects.”