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Orion Pharma Tests Item-Level Tagging

The Finnish drugmaker is using RFID to authenticate individual bottles of Marevan as they move from the factory to the consumer.
By Rhea Wessel
Mar 06, 2006A group of Scandinavian companies is running a trial using radio frequency identification to track and authenticate individual bottles of drugs as they move through the supply chain. The project is being carried out in anticipation of tighter rules in the United States on the tracking of medications.

Stora Enso, a Helsinki-based paper packaging products company, is working with Finland's Orion Pharma, the manufacturer of Marevan, an anticoagulant sold globally and used to prevent and treat blood clots. Meanwhile, Jaakkoo-Taara, a Finnish packaging manufacturer, is attaching UPM Raflatac 13.56 MHz RFID passive tags to the cartons of individual Marevan bottles. Stora Enso is using its PackAgent application (see Papermaker Works on Brand Authentication) to authenticate the cartons throughout the supply chain by verifying each tag's serial number.

Passive tags attached to cartons of Marevan bottles authenticate the cartons throughout the supply chain.
"For Orion Pharma, the trial is an opportunity to gather experience from the use of RFID technology in tracking deliveries and authenticating products in a commercial environment," says Jukka Pietilä, Orion's production manager for the project. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently reaffirmed its recommendation that RFID technology be used widely throughout the pharmaceutical industry by 2007 to improve security and safety (see FDA to Update Its RFID Vision).

Jaakkoo-Taara is affixing self-adhesive 13.56 MHz Raflatac Dipole tags, compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, to the interior bottom of the paper cartons. When Orion Pharma fills the bottles with pills at its production site, it encodes each tag with a unique serial number for the carton, as well as the batch number and the expiry date for the medicine.

Stora Enso would not disclose the number of bottles being tracked through the supply chain for the trial, but says the drug will be distributed to seven individual pharmacies in Finland and Estonia. The company expects to the tagged bottles will be sold to consumers by the end of April.

Orion is using PiccoLink handheld wireless RFID interrogators (readers) and Feig Electronic desktop interrogators, connected with cables, encode the tags at its factory. Once a batch of drugs is ready for shipment, individual items are packed in cases and an 868 MHz Raflatac Dipole passive UHF RFID tag is applied to each case, encoded with a unique ID number. Matching information about the contents of each case is kept in the PackAgent system.

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