Walmart – MediLedger Partnership: Leveraging Blockchain for Pharmaceutical-Tracking


With this partnership, Walmart tries to bring together the siloed database of US Healthcare to decentralize the fragmented system using Blockchain

Retail giant Walmart has joined hands with MediLedger, a consortium building a Blockchain solution to track the provenance of pharmaceuticals. The world’s largest retailer by sales, Walmart, has filed for about 50 Blockchain patents till date, including everything from operating drones to tracking shipments.

The retailer is already renowned for leveraging Blockchain in its work with the IBM Food Trust. Walmart’s participation in the consortium represents its deep involvement in technology. With the retailer’s involvement in IBM Food trust, it is expected that this crossover into the pharmaceutical supply chain will carry a similar sway.

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According to Walmart’s annual report, the ‘Health and wellness’ category that includes over-the-counter drugs and pharmacy, accounts for 10% of the total US sales, which is $35 billion.

MediLedger uses an enterprise version of the Ethereum Blockchain that is built with a modified version of the Parity client and a consensus mechanism called proof of authority. This consortium is spearheaded by a San Francisco-based Blockchain firm called Chronicled. This firm closed a $16 million funding round earlier this year.

MediLedger’s entrance into the pharmacy market was around the verification of returned drugs that are to be resold. While this accounts for a small share of the total pharmaceutical market, is still worth over $6 billion.

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With the growth and expansion of this consortium, MediLedger can start working on the tracking of all pharm products, ensuring interoperable data as well as packaging serialization. By leveraging Blockchain technology, the company will be able to offer better interoperability and higher immutability, as well as allow tracking and tracing, now that Walmart and its food trust is a part of it.

The time is ripe for this development, because an important legislation that helps preventing the sale of fraudulent products will come into effect this November.

Experts believe that there are ways in which the supply chain of pharmaceutical products can be tracked and secured in a centralized system, but this is method will not work well in the USA. Since the healthcare system in the US is primarily privatized, there is a web of fragmented and siloed databases disturbing the entire ecosystem. This makes it challenging to track and trace medicines that make its way in this tangle of data. The joint effort between FDA, MediLedger, working in tandem with the government mandate, is worth considering, because it will create a decentralized network.

The Congressional roadmap for the FDA requires the data to be interoperable and standardized. This is the advantage that Blockchain’s decentralized nature brings to the table.

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This partnership with Walmart will also boost MediLedger’s brand name and its technology. MediLedger currently works with pharmaceutical manufacturers like Pfizer, and wholesalers like McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen. US FDA has been directed by Congress to deliver an interoperable, digitized system to track and verify prescription drugs by 2023, and this partnership will boost the pharmaceutical industry’s contribution.

This month MediLedger will kick off their pilot with FDA to reach their 2023 target. With a significant partner like Walmart, their consortium can drive Blockchain to the pharmaceutical-tracking World.

Experts believe that the pilot makes sense only when a group of collaborators works on it. FDA does not advocate any one technology; its only criteria are to use recognized standards within each pilot’s tech stacks. Retailers’ acceptance is the biggest challenge for the interoperability between data and metadata, particularly in the pharmaceuticals industry, because it will bring in transparency. While some companies will try to embrace this, there will be surely some who will choose to stay away from Blockchain.

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Meeta Ramnani is the Senior Editor with OnDot Media. She writes about technologies including AI, IoT, Cloud, Big Data, Blockchain across various industries with a focus on Digital Transformation. An avid bike rider, Meeta, is a postgraduate from Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media (IIJNM) Bangalore, where her specialization was Business Journalism. She carries four years of experience in mainstream print media where she worked as a correspondent with The Times Group and Sakal Media Group in Pune.