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RxSafe's Machines Use RFID to Automatically Dispense Medications

The company's new RxASP line incorporates HF RFID readers to identify and dispense the correct types and amounts of pharmaceuticals.
By Claire Swedberg
May 23, 2014

RxSafe, a provider of automated medication storage and retrieval systems for pharmacies, is offering a new line of prescription packaging machines, known as RxASP, that employ high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz passive RFID tags to avoid mistakes involving the storage or dispensing of medications in plastic pouches or packets that are provided to patients.

RxSafe was founded in 2008, in San Diego, to develop and sell systems to pharmacies that would enable a faster, more efficient and controlled method for dispensing medication. In pharmacies—either in the retail environment or at institutional pharmacies serving patients in such environments as hospitals, prisons and nursing homes—prescriptions have traditionally been filled by hand. A staff member identifies a bottle of the product needed, pours out the pills and counts them before placing them in a prescription package for an individual patient. To improve efficiency at pharmacies, as well as at large distribution centers that handle mail-order fulfillments, technology firms have been offering machines that count the pills and fill a bottle, or an individual plastic package containing several pills that a particular patient should take daily.

The RxASP 1000 contains more than 120 RFID readers, to identify as many as 1,000 tagged pill canisters store inside the machine.
RxSafe makes such equipment to enable the faster fulfillment of orders, says William Holmes, RxSafe's CEO, including medication dispensed in plastic pouches that are administered to patients at institutional settings. RxASP comes with an enclosed honeycomb of what look like mailbox slots, each containing a canister to store a specific medication type and dosage. In response to orders input into the system, the machine automatically releases a specified number of pills, places them into a strip of plastic material and seals that material to form a packet or pouch—hence, the name RxASP (automated strip packager).

Standard drug-dispensing machines without RFID have several weaknesses. An individual could put a medication in the wrong canister, which could lead to mistakes in filling orders. What's more, there is no way to be sure of the quantity of a particular medication that workers place into the machine, or the exact number of pills then dispensed to a patient, leaving a company vulnerable to employee theft or errors that could pose significant health risks for patients. The standard system can be slow as well; if a medication runs out, a worker must stop the machine's operation, open it, pull out a tray and measure out the correct number of pills to be refilled into a specific canister. RxSafe does not make such standard systems, which it considers out of date and obsolete.

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