Memphis company, university develop blockchain plan for pharma innovation

A new technology might help in solving an old problem: prescription drug waste.

Memphis-based Good Shepherd Pharmacy has forged a partnership with the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis and Lipscomb University in Nashville for the development of a blockchain software platform for nonprofit pharmacies.

Through their collaboration, the organizations hope to create a blockchain network that can be accessed by pharmacies throughout the U.S. to eliminate prescription drug waste. The end result could be better access to needed prescription drugs for underinsured patients.

Two applications, RemediChain and ScriptRide, will use the blockchain platform to get donated prescriptions to patients.

RemediChain allows individual patients to contribute unused oral chemotherapy to those who can’t afford the drugs, while ScriptRide coordinates delivery of those drugs to patients.

The RemediChain application will use blockchain to provide “end-to-end traceability” for a drug from its donor point of origin to the end-user of the donated medication. It is estimated that 20 percent or more of filled prescriptions are thrown away. Oral chemotherapy drugs often cost between $30,000 to $45,000 for a 30-day supply.

Good Shepherd will manage the process of receiving and redistributing donated medications. The U of M's FedEx Institute of Technology and Lipscomb will provide the resources and expertise for building out the blockchain infrastructure.

Lipscomb’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has explored the potential of blockchain in drug supply management since 2015. Dr. Phil Baker, CEO of Good Shepherd, connected with Lipscomb associate professor, Dr. Kevin Clauson, to explore ways to intersect blockchain and pharmacy for reclaiming unused medicines.

“Lipscomb is the first College of Pharmacy to recognize the potential of blockchain technology,” Baker said. “Dr. Clauson was kind enough to listen to my idea, suggest improvements and connect me with the people who could make it happen.”

The U of M’s FedEx Institute of Technology is one of the organizations that can help take the idea from inception to reality.

“Blockchain represents a new opportunity for innovation, and Memphis’ national role as a leader in logistics makes it a natural place for the innovators in this technology to congregate,” said Cody Behles, assistant director of Innovation & Research Support at the FedEx Institute of Technology. “[The Institute] is proud to be a partner of [Good Shepherd] and to help facilitate their success in disrupting the pharmaceutical supply chain."

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