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T3Ci Aims to Help Fight Drug Counterfeiting

Developed in conjunction with one of the world's top drug companies, T3Ci's future services will rely on newly patented software mechanisms.
By Beth Bacheldor
Jan 23, 2007RFID applications services provider T3Ci was awarded a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) this month for technology it says will help pharmaceutical makers and other companies more effectively fight product counterfeiting.

The focus of the patent is on software approaches for identifying a number of situations that may show up in the supply chain and may be indications of counterfeiting, says Peter Rieman, executive VP of T3Ci, headquartered in Mountain View, Calif.

For example, the patent describes software mechanisms that, when combined with serialized RFID technology, would help a company track duplicate product identification numbers within the pharmaceutical supply chain—even at the item level, and even when an RFID tag has been cloned. The presence of such duplicate numbers can indicate a product has been counterfeited. "If we see, for example, product unit number 27 being distributed to a pharmacy in California, it would be very suspicious if that same product number were going to a pharmacy in Massachusetts," says Richard Swan, T3Ci's chief technical officer. "In that case, the system would identify that there is a duplicate," and the software could immediately alert the affected parties. Swan, along with T3Ci's senior VP of products and services, Shantha Mohan, coinvented the technology detailed in the patent.

Duplication tracking is just one feature T3Ci executives say will make its technology different from similar electronic pedigree (e-pedigree) software and services, such as those available from SupplyScape. E-pedigrees electronically document the chain of custody of drug products moving through distribution channels. Earlier this month, EPCglobal's board ratified the organization's e-pedigree protocol as a standard. The standard's purpose is to provide the pharma industry with a common format that supply chain partners can use to collect pedigree information, and upon which providers of pedigree solutions can build their pedigree software offerings (see EPCglobal Ratifies E-Pedigree Standard). TC3i says that its patent predates the ratification of the e-pedigree protocol, but that it intends to follow all EPCglobal standards

Other features of T3Ci's software may include the ability to sniff out unauthorized drugs in the supply chain. Legitimate drugs meant for export can reenter the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain, at great cost to drug manufacturers. For example, Rieman explains, some pharmaceutical companies sell certain drugs, such as those designed to treat HIV infection and AIDS, to third-world countries at a fraction of the price such drugs can fetch in the United States. Sometimes, however, those same bottles of drugs appear in the U.S. pharmacy market and are resold for a much higher price. T3Ci declines to comment on how its software or services would respond in if it detected such drugs being resold.

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