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German Drug Company Tracks Products With UHF Tags

Wholesaler Max Pharma is utilizing an RFID system to track medicines internally, and wants to encourage more suppliers and pharmacies to take advantage of the technology as well.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 07, 2011German pharmaceutical distributor Max Pharma has completed a pilot using passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) Gen 2 RFID tags to track drug products from Sun Pharmaceutical Industries that pass through Max Pharma's Gattendorf distribution facility. The pilot's success, the company reports, has encouraged it to move to the rollout phase. Down the line, Max Pharma hopes that additional drug manufacturers will tag shipments, and that more pharmacies will use the technology as well.

Max Pharma has been experimenting with RFID for several years. The company's aim has been to improve the visibility of products within its own facilities, and to sell the solution—which was developed by the firm's IT division, XQS-Service GmbH—to Max Pharma's supply chain partners.

In addition to acquiring and storing data regarding products and their shipping times and dates, XQS-Service's RFID-based track-and-trace solution can also monitor temperatures and other sensor data, though that was not within the scope of this year's pilot. The temperature-tracking feature allows supply chain members to sign onto an Internet-based portal, on which the XQS-Service software provides information about sensor measurements and shipping details.

Max Pharma is a wholesaler of oncology products to pharmacies and physicians throughout Germany, as well as in the Czech Republic. Its XQS-Service division was launched in 2006 to assist Max Pharma, as well as other companies participating in the drug supply chain, in tracking and tracing products from manufacturer to physician. "The idea is to implement a solution-provider (XQS) directly in the pharma environment," says Eldar Sultanow, XQS-Service's CIO.

The RFID program that XQS-Service developed is intended to meet European requirements for tracking the movements of pharmaceuticals throughout the supply chain, in order to reduce the risk of counterfeit drugs entering the market.

Max Pharma's wholesaler division ships approximately 50 boxes daily—each containing about 300 packages of oncology products—through its 8,000-square-meter (86,111-square-foot) facility. It ships €5 million ($7.3 million) worth of products monthly.

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