US FDA Mulls Blockchain Use to Track Prescription Drug Supply

By Warren Hayes | February 11, 2019
US FDA Mulls Blockchain Use to Track Prescription Drug Supply

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering the inclusion of blockchain technology as one of the means to battle the war against false, illegal drugs entering the US healthcare system. The move could also help prevent controlled drugs from being leaked into the open.

In a press release (Feb 7), the FDA said it has launched a pilot project aimed at stakeholders of the drug supply chain like manufacturers and packagers to come up with “innovative and emerging approaches” for stronger tracking and verifying of prescription drugs in the US. Such companies have until March 11 to apply to join the project.

Apart from identifying and evaluating the most efficient ways to comply with and apply drug supply chain security requirements, the pilot will help identify areas needed for enhanced product tracing and verification, as well as “electronic means to share the information”.

The FDA added that the pilot will inform the development of an “enhanced electronic, interoperable track-and-trace system for industry” set to be operative in 2023 as part of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act.

“Using new innovations, we believe we can improve the overall security of our closed system and improve our ability to prevent the introduction of illegitimate products, better detect the introduction of illegitimate products, and enable stakeholders and the FDA to respond more rapidly when such products are found,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.

“We’re invested in exploring new ways to improve traceability, in some cases using the same technologies that can enhance drug supply chain security, like the use of blockchain. To advance these efforts, the FDA recently recruited Frank Yiannas, an expert on the use of traceability technologies in global food supply chains. He’ll be working closely with me on ways for the FDA to facilitate the expansion of such methods, such as blockchain technology, to further strengthen the US food supply,” Gottlieb added.

The FDA’s announcement of the pilot could be rather timely in helping to tackle existing drug and opioid addiction issues in the country. Blockchain technology could help to minimize the possibility of dangerous drugs floating on the black market, but also help track them down if they do go missing from the regulated supply chain.

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