Walmart, which is a retail giant, is actually ramping up the efforts to harness the power of the blockchain record-keeping in the pharmaceutical tracking, while it also hedges its bets as the particular technology it is committed to.

Walmart participating in the new drug-verification pilot

On Thursday, the big-box retail giant claimed that it is going to join in the drug-verification pilot with KPMG, IBM, and also the drug-maker Merck. This is, in fact, the second pilot of that type involving Walmart to be announced in as many weeks, and it actually adds still another flavor of distributed ledger technology or DLT to the use case of drug-tracking.

During the last week, it was reported that Walmart has been participating in the MediLedger consortium, whose members already are the pharmaceutical manufacturers like Pfizer, as well as the three biggest pharmaceutical wholesalers, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson.

However, whereas MediLedger builds upon some private version of Ethereum or ETH, which is called Parity, the IBM or Walmart project is going to use Hyperledger Fabric, which is a sign that Walmart is still not committed to any platform.

The big retailers are quite clearly about getting quite more comfortable with the technology of blockchain and exploring various options. At the start of this week, it was reported that Target participates in a Hyperledger supply chain which tracks the project called Grid, while it also pursues its own blockchain project known as ConsenSource.

Walmart has already been one of the most prominent companies worldwide to adopt DLT as a participant in the Food Trust of IBM. Now, that system is out of testing, and it is actually used in the wild to track the movement of vegetables and fruits from the farm to grocery stores.

However, the Bentonville behemoth is early in its exploration of the pharmaceutical use case yet. One representative from Walmart, named Marilee McInnis, said that they are learning which actually the point of the pilots is, but their ultimate purpose through both would be to create a more transparent and safer chain for their customers.

FDA is completing its approval of the platforms

The pharmaceutical distributed ledger technologies are coming to light right now, as the FDA or Food and Drug Administration of the United States now completes its approval of the platforms for inclusion in a pilot program mandated by the government.

The DSCSA or Drug Supply Chain Security Act also requires the firms to have the ability to identify, trace, and track prescription medicines, as well as vaccines which are distributed within the United States, down to a reasonably granular level on the packaging of the products.

This new drug pilot is going to build on the work that Big Blue already did with Walmart, according to the blockchain solutions Leader for life sciences and healthcare of IBM, named Mark Treshock.

He said that the project with KPMG, Merck, as well as Walmart, although it is a pilot, will be leveraging the blockchain platforms’ production which they developed for Walmart with Food Trust, and also with Maersk in the TradeLens. He added that this is not only a science experiment.

Although he clarified that drugs and foods are not going to co-exist on the identical blockchain, Food Trust and Treshock rely on the same sort of data standards like GS1, as is frequently used in life sciences.

The competing chains

When it comes to the participation of Walmart in the Hyperledger pilot with IBM, and working with the blockchain of MediLedger, based on ETH, the co-lead at MediLedger, named Eric Garvin, said that it wasn’t surprising since IBM and Walmart collaborate on Food Trust.

The mandate of FDA for drug tracking also lists interoperability as the key requirement and also the putative benefit of digitalizing the supply chain, and even raising the question if competing for enterprise blockchain protocols may be created to communicate with one another, or if businesses are eventually going to have to consolidate platforms.

The Treshock of IBM took a philosophical view on this, saying that they feel it is less about the technology, if ETH or Hyperledger, even though that is definitely important, and they believe it is more about interoperability at the model level of the business, by that they mean coming together, as well as creating open networks.

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