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Purdue Moving OxyContin RFID Pilot to Full Production

By midyear, the drugmaker plans to roll out a full-scale implementation, after which every bottle and case of the painkiller will carry an EPC Gen 2 tag.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Feb 13, 2007Having carried out a three-year pilot program to place RFID tags on bottles of the painkiller OxyContin, prescription drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma says it plans to roll out a full-scale implementation, tagging every bottle and case of the drug that it produces.

When it first began its pilot in November 2004, the company tagged bottles of OxyContin at its Wilson, N.C., manufacturing plant bound only for Wal-Mart and drug wholesaler H.D. Smith (see Purdue Pharma Tags OxyContin).

The company has announced plans to migrate from the Symbol EPC Class 0 passive UHF inlays it currently uses to EPC Gen 2 passive UHF inlays containing Impinj's Monza Gen 2 chip. This transition will take place during the second quarter of 2007, with Purdue sourcing the Gen 2 tags from both Motorola's Enterprise Mobility Business division (formerly Symbol Technologies) and Omron. It will also use the Speedway fixed-position interrogator, made by Impinj and distributed by ADT, to read and verify the tagged bottles.

According to Harry Ramsey, Purdue's senior package development engineer, the firm will continue to have its label-converting provider, George Schmitt & Co., pre-encode an EPC to each tag, rather than bringing the encoding responsibilities in-house.

EPC Gen 2 tags can be encoded and read more quickly than the EPC Class 0 tags Purdue currently uses. However, the drugmaker does not expect the switch to Gen 2 to result in a noticeable improvement in read rates for tagged bottles moving through the packaging line at a rate of roughly 120 bottles per minute. The drugmaker, Ramsey explains, already achieves good readability from the current Class 0 tags during this step.

Other processes in the packaging line, Ramsey notes, prohibit bottles from being moved through the line more quickly than the 120-per-minute rate. For bottles aggregated into groups of 48 to be placed into cases, however, Purdue can read each group's tags an average of only 80 percent of the time. This means 20 percent of the 48-bottle groups need to be redirected and read again. In tests of the Gen 2 inlays with Impinj chips, he says, Purdue has consistently seen 100 percent successful reads of these 48-tag groups.

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