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Walmart Extends Its Blockchain Reach, Joins Pharmaceutical-Tracking Consortium

Retail giant Walmart, already renowned in the blockchain space for its work in the IBM Food Trust, is continuing to expand in the industry by joining a new consortium. Walmart has joined MediLedger, a consortium building a blockchain solution for tracking the provenance of pharmaceuticals.

Walmart confirmed their participation in the consortium, which represents a deepening involvement in the technology, to Coindesk. The world’s largest retailer by sales has already filed for about 50 blockchain patents for everything from tracking shipments to operating drones.

The crossover to the pharmaceutical supply chain should carry an equal amount of sway as the work being done on food tracking through IBM’s Food Trust. This consortium will no doubt boost MediLedger, whose members already include pharmaceutical manufacturers such as Pfizer and the three largest pharmaceutical wholesalers, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health.

It will also be a big boost to the pharmaceutical industry as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been mandated by Congress to deliver an interoperable, digitized system for tracking and verifying prescription drugs by 2023.

Moreover, this section of Walmart’s revenue, which includes over-the-counter drugs, accounted for $35 billion of sales in the fiscal year; 10 percent of the total revenue for the company.

A New Pilot

MediLedger is preparing, in June, to kick off their pilot alongside the FDA in order for them to try and reach their 2023 target. They now have a significant partner as part of their consortium to drive this mandate and bring blockchain to the pharmaceutical-tracking world.

Eric Garvin, co-lead of MediLedger, said: “The pilots only really make sense if you are working with a group of collaborators.”

MediLedger’s entrance into the market was based around the verification of drugs that are returned to be resold. This accounts for a small share of the pharmaceutical market.

However, with the expansion and growth of this consortium, the company can start work on the tracking of all pharmaceutical products, ensuring interoperable data and packaging serialization. Through blockchain technology, they will be able to offer much immutability and interoperability, as well as track and tracing as has been demonstrated by Walmart and their food trust.

Why Decentralize Pharma Tracking?

The joint effort between MediLedger and the FDA, under the government mandate to create a decentralized system, is worth looking at. There are ways in which the supply chain of pharmaceutical goods can be tracked and secured through centralized forces, but in the USA, that is not the best method.

The healthcare system in the U.S. is complicated and primarily privatized; this means that there is a web of fragmented siloed databases permeating the entire ecosystem. For this reason, it becomes hard to track and trace medicine that makes its way through this fractured tangle of data.

The Congressional roadmap for the FDA spells out that the data being gathered has to be technically interoperable as well as standardized. This led many to pinpoint blockchain as the answer because of its decentralized and trustless nature.

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