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GlaxoSmithKline Tags HIV Drug

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline yesterday announced that it has begun an RFID pilot for the HIV drug Trizivir. The news represents the most significant pharma-tagging announcement since Pfizer announced in January that it had begun tracking and tracing Viagra.
Mar 23, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

March 23, 2006—Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline yesterday announced that it has begun an RFID pilot for the HIV drug Trizivir. The news represents the most significant pharma-tagging announcement since Pfizer announced in January that it had begun tracking and tracing Viagra (see our story).

GSK chose Trizivir because it is one of the 32 drugs most susceptible to counterfeiting and diversion, according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. The pilot is an end-to-end electronic pedigree and product authentication solution. Tagging is done at the bottle level, and at every link in the pharmaceutical supply chain -- from manufacturer to wholesale distributor to pharmacist -- bottles can be scanned to verify authenticity. RFID-tagged bottles of Trizivir will begin showing up on pharmacy shelves in about one month's time.

IBM was the technology partner that GSK employed to develop the pilot. The overall project management was handled by IBM, including the installation, configuration, integration, and testing of the RFID middleware, EPC information services (EPCIS), and electronic pedigree functionality. IBM's WebSphere RFID Premises Server and WebSphere EPC Information Center were both deployed.

GSK made a point of directly addressing the privacy issue, in effect attempting to preempt possible consumer push-back. According to the release, "The technology does not collect any patient information. The RFID tag contains information about the product only, not the patient. GlaxoSmithKline will not collect any personally identifiable information about patients through this technology." Clearly, as with Viagra and many other medications, one's usage of Trizivir is itself highly sensitive personal information. Generally, the pharmaceutical industry is working through many of the privacy and data protection issues around RFID tagging, and the practices it develops will probably serve as guidance for the retail industry which also plans to eventually adopt item-level tagging.

GSK said that it has invested "several million dollars" in its RFID efforts. The company expects to apply learnings from the Trizivir pilot as it looks to tag other pharmaceuticals in its portfolio.

Last month, ABI Research released bearish short-term predictions for pharma tagging, predicting that only ten drugs will start being tagged in 2006. Asset management firm Baird made similar predictions. With Q1 coming to a close and only two drugs announced so far -- Trizivir and Viagra -- these predictions appear to be on target.
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