GHX updates progress on a prototype data exchange for track-and-trace

November 22, 2011
Pharmaceutical Commerce, Pharmaceutical Commerce - November/December 2011,

E-commerce hub is soliciting more pharma participants to evaluate data-exchange protocols


t the recent HDMA Track and Trace Seminar (National Harbor, MD; Nov. 9-11), representatives of GHX (Louisville, CO) and others presented an update on a project to build a data exchange that could be compatible with evolving FDA and industry standards for providing traceability and e-pedigrees for drug distribution. The company’s assessment: so far, so good—and now there needs to be additional participants from manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers to stress-test the system.

GHX (which now styles itself as "The Healthcare Supply Cloud") has a substantial existing business as an e-commerce hub for hospital supplies; it currently processes orders among suppliers, GPOs and wholesalers representing $40 billion in annual revenue. Last year it began a project to adapt this platform to track-and-trace data, and according to Margot Drees, corporate strategy director, entered an operational stage on Oct. 1, where actual track-and-trace data is being transmitted, stored and retrieved. Such a data exchange addresses the higher level of the track-and-trace initiative; while technical details of barcode or RFID data carriers on packages are being worked out, a full-blown, GS1-compliant system will require a data repository where supply chain “events” are stored digitally, and are retrievable for validating the provenance of a drug shipment (whether or not this provenance equates with an actual drug pedigree remains to be seen). Industry and FDA continue to grapple with the question whether the data repository should be one entity (a “centralized” model), something that resides at, and communicates with, each trading partner in a supply chain (a decentralized model), or something like what GHX is proposing, a semi-centralized model.

Ron Bone, SVP Distribution at McKesson, noted in the presentation that GHX brings an existing community (upwards of 12,000 trading partners) who are already linked together for e-commerce—“the linkages can be very complex to assemble and maintain, and the system has to work no matter what level of complexity occurs among trading partners.” And Mike Rose, VP of supply chain visibility at J&J, added that the GHX project “opens a window on how GS1 standards could work, and represents a low-cost way to evaluate future changes in IT and business practices.” Drees concluded by commenting that while there is a cost to participate in the project, the more participants come on board, the lower the costs can be.