IBM continued its assault on the blockchain big time as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it was hooking up with the computing giant alongside Walmart and Merck to improve the security of prescription drug supply and distribution. The three companies will work with consultancy firm KPMG to create a shared blockchain network that will provide real-time monitoring of products in the pharmaceutical supply chain, another sign that IBM poses a real threat to competing decentralized projects in the cryptocurrency space.
Pharmaceuticals an Ideal Blockchain Test Case
The U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), an outfit set up to increase regulatory oversight of counterfeit, contaminated, stolen, or otherwise harmful drugs, authorized the FDA to run the pilot scheme. The project itself is aimed at reducing the time required to track and trace prescription drugs, as well as improving access to reliable distribution information and ensuring that products are handled appropriately and stored at the correct temperature while being distributed. The pilot is scheduled to be completed in quarter four of 2019, with the results to be published in a report in early 2020.
IBM Fires Another Warning Shot
This deal isn’t IBM’s first foray into the pharmaceutical field – their research center in Haifa, Israel is helping tackle counterfeit pharmaceuticals in Africa – but this pilot represents a huge step up in terms of scale and potential. Were it successful in its aims, it would represent a major coup for blockchain technology and could lead to a more concrete deal for using the technology in a wider context. Existing cryptocurrency projects such as VeChain and Ambrosus also have interest in tracking pharmaceuticals via the blockchain, and while this news won’t exactly cause them to shut up shop, the sight of major retailers already siding with the big boys won’t make pleasurable reading.