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New RFID-Enabled Drug Pedigree Solutions

Sun Microsystems has launched one solution for deploying item-level pharmaceuticals track and trace applications with RFID. SupplyScape, Systech and Tagsys are partnering on another.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Nov 15, 2005Two RFID-enabled, integrated solutions for pharmaceuticals track and trace applications were announced Monday at the RFID Healthcare Industry Adoption Summit in Arlington, Va. Both use electronic pedigrees, or e-pedigrees, to prove a drug's chain of custody and protect against the introduction of counterfeit and/or diverted (fraudulently obtained and resold) drugs into the supply chain.

In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) initiated investigations into 58 instances of drug counterfeiting. This represented a significant increase from the 30 cases opened in 2003, an indicator that counterfeiting is becoming more prevalent. Because of this, the FDA is interested in implementing new technologies to protect the U.S. drug supply more effectively. Counterfeit medicines pose significant health risks to consumers and greatly impact the pharmaceutical industry through lost revenue.

Vivek Khandelwal, Sun Microsystems
Sun Microsystems released its Sun RFID Drug Authentication Solution, a combination of Sun and third-party hardware and software designed to help companies in the pharmaceutical supply chain authenticate drugs and create an e-pedigree using unique electronic product codes (EPCs) encoded to RFID tags. SupplyScape also announced an integrated solution at the health-care summit, in partnership with RFID tag and reader manufacturer Tagsys and Systech, a provider of automated packaging and data collection systems.

Sun is partnering with two different software vendors to provide e-pedigree applications as part of the RFID Drug Authentication Solution. Users can chose between SupplyScape's E-Pedigree Application or Raining Data's ePharma Application Suite. Either application allows users to create, manage and certify pedigree data across the supply chain.

Vivek Khandelwal, principal RFID solutions manager for Sun's RFID Business Unit, says the solution is scalable because pharmaceutical makers, distributors and retailers can start using it now to authenticate the EPC data encoded to a product's tag between two points in the supply chain. Once all trading partners begin reading tags, they can perform chain-of-custody tracking. Khandelwal says users can write their own applications to perform point-to-point authentication, or they can purchase the Raining Data or SupplyScape pedigree application. For end-to-end pedigrees, however, which create a complete chain of custody from the point of manufacture through to the point of sale, they would need a pedigree application.

To deploy the solution, companies use Sun's RFID middleware to commission the EPCs, then collect and filter the EPC data from RFID tags and readers, not included in the offering. The middleware supports both high frequency (13.56 MHz) and ultra-high frequency (915 MHz) RFID tags. In field trials for RFID for track and trace applications, end users in the pharmaceutical industry are testing both types of tags to track drugs. (See Six U.K. Drugmakers Pilot RFID and Purdue Pharma Tags OxyContin.)

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