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FDA explores using blockchain to track drug supplies

It's not the only technological option for protecting medicine.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
February 10, 2019
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AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

The US Food and Drug Administration wants to be sure sketchy drugs don't find their way to hospitals and pharmacies, and it's mulling a technological solution to keep medicine safe. The agency has launched a pilot program that will let the drug supply chain explore ways to track prescription medicine. While the FDA isn't specific about what tech companies would use, it noted that blockchain was one example. The same decentralized trust system that can trace the origins of your lettuce could also verify that your pills come from a legitimate source.

Companies have until March 11th to apply to participate in the pilot. You'll have to wait a while to see the resulting technology in widespread use, mind you. The tracking system isn't slated to take effect until 2023, 10 years after the law mandating the technology (the Drug Supply Chain Security Act) took effect.

The pilot might still be well-timed. The US continues to grapple with an opioid addiction problem. A technology like blockchain could reduce the chances of opioids and other dangerous drugs escaping the supply chain, and could identify where those drugs came from if and when they do get into the wild. That, in turn, could discourage rogue employees and suppliers from selling medicine to people who don't really need it.

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