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Pfizer to Tag Celebrex

The drugmaker will use Gen 2 RFID technology to track cases and pallets and test the concept of case-level serialization and authentication, which could help wholesalers catch counterfeit Viagra.
By Beth Bacheldor
Nov 14, 2006In the past year, Pfizer has successfully tagged more than 2 million bottles, 55,000 cases and 400 pallets of Viagra. Now, the drug manufacturer is ready to start tagging another of its top-selling drugs: Celebrex.

In 2007, Pfizer plans to affix UHF Gen 2 RFID tags to all cases and pallets of the drug—a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory—bound for the U.S. market. This is part of an effort to expand the scope of Pfizer's RFID initiative, the drugmaker announced at this week's RFID Health-Care Industry Adoption Summit conference in Washington, D.C. The Celebrex trial will require Pfizer to build out its RFID infrastructure and expertise beyond its plant in France, which produces and packages Viagra, to a much larger plant in Caguas, Puerto Rico.

The initiative will incorporate four assembly lines used to produce and package Celebrex, each of which operate at a speed four times that of a Viagra line. The expansion will enable Pfizer and its trading partners to vet findings established in the past year with the Viagra RFID project. For example, says Byron Bond, director of trade operations and customer service for Pfizer's U.S. pharmaceuticals division, the Celebrex pilot will provide the drugmaker a more accurate picture of tag read rates, which have thus far proven very high in the Viagra trial, involving only one product and one assembly line.

"This will be a little more challenging environment," Bond says. "The higher volumes will help us validate what we've learned and better understand RFID's costs. Celebrex has significant volumes, so for [distributors], as well as us here at Pfizer, who really want to look at operational efficiencies, we'll all be able to get a clearer picture."

Celebrex's annual volumes are significantly higher than Viagra's and, therefore, more costly to tag. As such, Pfizer has opted not to tag at the unit level. Moreover, tagging cases and pallets of Celebrex will allow the manufacturer to test the concept of case-level serialization and authentication, which could help wholesalers identify counterfeit drugs. "I'm not going to tell you we're convinced that case-level validation is the only solution, but it can enable systemic counterfeit detection," Bond says. "You don't always have to go to the expense of item-level tagging."

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