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New Magnetic Tag for Drugs

Flying Null has unveiled a new magnetic tag that could help reduce counterfeiting of pharmaceutical products.
Sep 06, 2002Sept. 6, 2002 -- Counterfeit products account for more than 7 percent of the global supply of pharmaceutical products, according the World Health Organization. That translates into an estimated $2 billion in lost sales for pharmaceutical companies. A Cambridge, U.K., startup that makes magnetic identification tags says it has a solution to the problem.

Flying Null, a spinout from Scientific Generics Ltd., an international consulting and investment group, has introduced a new tag that can be embedded directly in blister packs. Since the tag can be read through the aluminum of a blister pack, or a bottle cap, the packaging doesn't have to be opened to confirm the authenticity of the contents.

The company says it embedded its electromagnetic identification (EMID) tags successfully between the plastic and aluminum layers of blister packaging during recent trials carried out with an unnamed global pharmaceutical manufacturer. It is believed to be the first time a tagging solution has been effectively embedded within blister packaging.

In the blister package in the photo, the EMID tag was applied as a thread 23 microns thick in between the plastic and the foil. The new product is an adaptation of Flying Null's existing technology, which uses a specially developed alloy that is highly sensitive to magnetism. By placing material on the alloy, a reader can pick up a code that can be converted into a number.

The new Flying Null tags enable pharmaceutical companies to implement an advanced authentication system. The tag's ID can be linked to a barcode on a case of product, which enables the manufacturer to use a handheld reader to quickly check whether the right contents are in the right box at any time, from initial manufacturing to the point of distribution.

Rob Karsten, Flying Null's director of sales and marketing, says the new tag can be a cost-effective way for pharmaceutical manufacturers to combat counterfeiting of drugs and pharmaceuticals. The tags cost no more than a few cents each, depending on volumes and the amount of data that you need to store on them.

Flying Null's tags use proprietary technology that is not compatible with any RFID system. The company believes that its products are a cost-effective alternative to RFID because they offer some of the same functionality at a lower cost. Like RFID tags, FN tags can be read through cardboard and plastic. They also can be read through the aluminum, but they can't be used with any magnetic material.

Last month, Flying Null introduced an EMID tag that was just 3 microns thick. That tag could be used behind labels on bottles of alcohol for counterfeit protection. It could also be stamped onto blister packs, tamper-proof bottles and other packaging used by the pharmaceutical industry, according to Karsten.

Flying Null also carried out trails with the pharmaceutical manufacturer that showed it is possible to embed EMID tags within the induction seals on pharmaceutical product bottles and containers. Manufacturers can embed the tags in the seals at point of manufacture and ensure that the contents have not been altered or tampered with at any point in the supply chain. The EMID tags can then be used to track and trace the products, to combat gray market diversion and for warranty or liability claims.

The new EMID tags are available immediately.
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