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Pfizer Shipping RFID-tagged Viagra

One of the pharmaceutical industry's most significant announcements with respect to RFID came Friday afternoon as drug giant Pfizer announced that is has begun shipping RFID-tagged bottles, cases, and pallets of Viagra.
Jan 09, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

January 9, 2006—One of the pharmaceutical industry's most significant announcements with respect to RFID came Friday afternoon as drug giant Pfizer announced that is has begun shipping RFID-tagged bottles, cases, and pallets of Viagra. The drug's popularity makes it a lucrative target of counterfeiters (think about all the Viagra spam you receive) and therefore a ripe opportunity for RFID-based counterfeit prevention.

Pfizer's system works as follows. Wholesalers and pharmacists equipped with RFID readers will scan the EPC (electronic product code) and chip ID encoded on a Viagra bottle's RFID tag, then enter that information into a web-based system. The EPC and chip ID will be sent securely over the internet to Pfizer's database, where the pairing will be authenticated (much like a username/password combination in typical login systems). The validation of authenticity will be sent back to the pharmacist or wholesaler in real-time, offering essentially immediate verification of the drug's integrity. The web-based system is a subscription service called RxAuthentication and provided by SupplyScape of Woburn, Massachusetts. The bottle tags are provided by France's Tagsys, while the case and pallet tags come from Silicon Valley-based Alien Technology.

Pfizer has reportedly invested several million dollars in the initiative, which it is calling an industry first. According to the press release, "Pfizer is the first pharmaceutical company to put in place comprehensive program of this type focused on EPC authentication as a means of deterring counterfeiting." The system is not a track-and-trace solution, which would allow the company to track a bottle or case of Viagra through all points in the supply chain. Nor is it an e-Pedigree system, which saves and verifies the route of transit a bottle of drugs took through the supply chain. Such capabilities would require coordination and investment from all of the many discrete partners throughout the chain. Those hurdles notwithstanding, track-and-trace and e-Pedigree are indeed potential end goals toward which Pfizer will work in 2006 and beyond.

The new RFID packaging (see it here) will be phased in over the course of the next three months; 100% of bottles are expected to be tagged by the end of March. In addition to an RFID tag, the new packaging will include a barcode as a means of redundancy and backup should the tag become damaged. Literature by Pfizer about the initiative is quick to preempt consumer pushback based on privacy concerns: "Pfizer's application of RFID also does not allow for the collection of any patient information."

Read the press release
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