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Publix Plans to Automate Specialty Drug Management Via RFID

ASD Healthcare's Cubixx system will enable the supermarket chain's pharmacists to automatically track high-value, low-volume specialty medications on consignment.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 16, 2016

Publix—a southeastern U.S. supermarket chain with 980 pharmacy locations—has entered into an agreement with AmerisourceBergen to use AmerisourceBergen's RFID-based drug-management system, known as Cubixx, to track specialty pharmaceutical products at the retailer's pharmacies. The Cubixx system will allow the pharmacies to automatically track products that are billed only when used, such as specialty consignment items. (At this time, Publix is not providing additional details regarding its use of the Cubixx system.)

For the past decade, ASD Healthcare—AmerisourceBergen's specialty pharmaceutical distributor division—offered its Cubixx solution initially to acute-care facilities, as well as to pharmacies, clinics, hospitals and even patients, to track RFID-tagged products inside their Cubixx coolers (see ASD Healthcare Deploys RFID Refrigerated Drug Cabinets). Specialty medications are especially challenging for health-care providers to offer, according to Chris Flori, ASD Healthcare's VP of business innovation, because they are used infrequently and can be very expensive. Increasingly, therefore, hospitals and other health-care providers are moving toward a consignment model in which they stock a small number of specialty drugs, paying only for those that are dispensed. However, he adds, tracking such products manually can be an onerous task without an automating technology like radio frequency identification.

Each Cubixx refrigerated cabinet comes with a built-in UHF RFID reader and RFID reader antenna array that automatically take inventory counts of all medications stored within the unit.
"Publix and AmerisourceBergen are both focused on providing patient-minded solutions," Flori says. "As the need for specialty medication increases, this partnership enables patients to continue to use Publix as their pharmacy, trusting that they'll get the right product when they need it."

Many pharmacies already utilizing the Cubixx inventory-management solution are also offering the units to patients who use high-value specialty medications in their own homes. In this way, the Cubixx system can track—for the patient, physician and pharmacy—whether and when medications are being removed from the unit, thereby enabling prescription orders to be refilled. The system can also prompt a follow-up call from a pharmacist or physician if it appears that a patient is not taking his or her medicine at the expected rate.

The Cubixx units vary from 1.7 cubic feet to 56 cubic feet in size, and organizations can use just a single unit, or a fleet of them. Each comes with a built-in ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID reader and an RFID reader antenna array. The make or model of reader and antenna varies, depending on a pharmacy's particular criteria and the specific Cubixx unit in use. The units can serve as refrigerators or freezers, with the readers capturing tag reads at temperatures down to -30 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees Fahrenheit). Cubixx units and data are completely customizable, Flori says, adding, "Information is HIPPA-protected, and ASD Healthcare ensures patient privacy is maintained."

USER COMMENTS

George Donahue 2016-06-30 04:06:30 AM
Some medicine can be really expensive and/or addictive and dangerous. We all heard about this Martin Shkreli case by now. But even drugs that are less costly than Daraprim still have to be monitored carefully. Taken Suboxone, for example. It is used to treat opioid addiction, but can also be abused as a street drug precursor, because of its buprenorphine contents. RFID tagging can allow for a better control, provide there is a unified drug database to integrate and monitor medicine purchases.

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