FDA takes new steps to adopt more modern technologies for improving the security of the drug supply chain

FDAA key element of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's mission is focused on helping to ensure that all products we regulate, including drugs available to consumers, are safe and of high quality. This means working to ensure greater accountability in our nation's drug supply chain.

As part of these efforts, today, the agency is launching a new pilot project in which participants representing the drug supply chain (e.g., manufacturers, repackagers and other stakeholders) can pilot the use of innovative and emerging approaches for enhanced tracing and verification of prescription drugs in the U.S. to ensure suspect and illegitimate products do not enter the supply chain. Eligible entities may apply to participate in the program. The pilot will inform the development of the enhanced electronic, interoperable track-and-trace system for industry set to go into effect in 2023 as part of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act. This new program will pilot technologies that may become part of our enhanced expectations for reliable track-and-trace systems. The new system will be aimed at reducing diversion of drugs distributed domestically and will help keep counterfeit drugs from entering the supply chain, and ultimately, reaching patients.

"As part of our ongoing efforts to protect our nation’s drug supply, today, we're giving industry an opportunity to test new technologies that can help spur greater accountability for participants in the supply chain and improve our ability to trace prescription drugs at every point in the distribution chain. Using new innovations, we believe we can improve the overall security of our closed system and improve our ability to prevent the introduction of illegitimate products, better detect the introduction of illegitimate products, and enable stakeholders and the FDA to respond more rapidly when such products are found," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. "We recognize that tracking and tracing products is critical to industry's ability to detect and remove potentially dangerous drugs from the drug supply chain. This pilot is one of many steps we're taking to foster innovative ways to improve the security of the drug supply. We're also focused on making improvements across the other products we regulate, especially related to food and our ability to address foodborne outbreaks. We're invested in exploring new ways to improve traceability, in some cases using the same technologies that can enhance drug supply chain security, like the use of blockchain. To advance these efforts, the FDA recently recruited Frank Yiannas, an expert on the use of traceability technologies in global food supply chains. He'll be working closely with me on ways for the FDA to facilitate the expansion of such methods, such as blockchain technology, to further strengthen the U.S. food supply. Under his leadership, we’ll continue to leverage all tools available to ensure greater accountability. For the drug track-and-trace system, our goals are to fully secure electronic product tracing, which provides a step-by-step account of where a drug product has been located and who has handled it; establish a more robust product verification to ensure that a drug product is legitimate and unaltered; and to make sure that any party involved in handling drugs in the supply chain must have the ability to spot and quarantine and investigate any suspect drug. We're committed to staying at the forefront of new and emerging technologies and how they might be used to create safer, smarter and more trusted supply chains to better protect consumer safety and ensure the integrity of the high quality of products they deserve."

The DSCSA pilot project program is intended to help identify and evaluate the most efficient processes to comply with and apply drug supply chain security requirements. The program will aid in identifying attributes the system will need for enhanced product tracing and verification, as well as electronic means to share the information. The FDA is committed to sharing new approaches considered through this program with the broader drug supply chain community on the agency's website. Our goal is to ensure that all parties can be apprised of its progress and take advantage of any shared learning.

The FDA has previously taken steps to advance the development and adoption of technologies that can help identify and properly trace prescription drugs as they move through the supply chain. For example, the FDA recently issued draft guidance on the use of product identifiers with a unique serial number to improve verification down to the package level. Additionally, the FDA has provided draft guidance for verification systems to quarantine and investigate suspect and illegitimate drugs. Enhanced verification and tracing in the supply chain can translate to a more rapid response by industry and the FDA when an illegitimate product is found.

DSCSA was enacted by Congress on Nov. 27, 2013. It outlines steps to build an electronic, interoperable system to identify and trace certain prescription drugs as they are distributed in the United States.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

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