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The Last Mile: DSCSA Solution Through Blockchain Technology: Drug Tracking, Tracing, and Verification at the Last Mile of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain with BRUINchain

Blockchain in Healthcare Today (BHTY)

By Blockchain in Healthcare Today (BHTY)

Blockchain in Healthcare Today (BHTY) is the world’s first peer review journal that amplifies and disseminates distributed ledger technology research and innovations in the healthcare sector.

William Chien, Josenor de Jesus, Ben Taylor; Victor Dods, Leo Alekseyev, Diane Shoda, Perry B. Shieh


Purpose: As part of the FDA’s DSCSA Pilot Project Program, UCLA and its solution partner, LedgerDomain (collectively referred to as the team hereafter), focused on building a complete, working blockchain-based system, BRUINchain, which would meet all the key objectives of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) for a dispenser operating solely on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology.

Methods: The BRUINchain system requirements include scanning the drug package for a correctly formatted 2D barcode, flagging expired products, verifying the product with the manufacturer, and quarantining suspect and illegitimate products at the last mile: pharmacist to patient, the most complex area of the drug supply chain.

The authors demonstrate a successful implementation where product-tracing notifications are sent automatically to key stakeholders, resulting in enhanced timeliness and reduction in paperwork burden. At the core of this effort was a blockchain-based solution to track and trace changes in custody of drug. As an immutable, time-stamped, near-real-time (50-millisecond latency), auditable record of transactions, BRUINchain makes it possible for supply chain communities to arrive at a single version of the truth. BRUINchain was tested using real data on real caregivers administering life-saving medications to real patients at one of the busiest pharmacies in the United States.

Results: In addition to communicating with the manufacturer directly for verification, BRUINchain also initiated suspect product notifications. During the study, a 100% success rate was observed for scanning, expiration detection, and counterfeit detection; and paperwork reduction from approximately 1 hour to less than a minute.

Conclusions: By automatically interrogating the manufacturer’s relational database with our blockchain-based system, our results indicate a projected DSCSA compliance cost of 17 cents per unit, and potentially much more depending on regulatory interpretation and speed of verification. We project that this cost could be reduced with manufacturers’ adoption of a highly performant, fully automated end-to-end system based on digital ledger technology (DLT). During an examination of the interoperability of such a system, we elaborate on its capacity to enable verification in real time without keeping humans in the loop, the key feature driving lower compliance cost. With 4.2 billion prescriptions being dispensed each year in the United States, DLT would not only reduce the projected per-unit cost to 13 cents per unit (saving $183 million in annual labor costs), but also serve as a major bulwark against bad or fraudulent transactions, reduce the need for safety stock, and enhance the detection and removal of potentially dangerous drugs from the drug supply chain to protect US consumers.

Keywords: Blockchain, DSCSA, FDA, Healthcare Information Technology, Hyperledger Fabric, Patient Care, Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

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