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RFID Tracks Specialty Drugs Through Pharmaceutical Network

Asembia has deployed a UHF RFID-based solution to track the movement and status of specialty medications as they flow from the distribution center to pharmacies and to patients, thereby preventing the dispensing of expired products.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 29, 2018

Asembia, a health-care service, contracting and technology company, is managing the inventory dating and expiration of its high-value medications using an RFID system from Truecount Corp. Since launching the UHF RFID system this year, Asembia reports that both the organization's distribution arm and its pharmacy members have been better able to manage the dating and expirations of inventory, and have thereby minimized product returns.

Truecount had already created a simple, inexpensive way to date and track inventory or assets. Working with Asembia, Truecount adapted that system for seamless integration with Asembia's inventory-management tools. Tag provider Charming Trim & Packaging provided the UHF inlay labels that are attached to the pharmaceutical packaging. Asembia, headquartered in Florham Park, N.J., employed Trucount's Simple RFID software solution.

Asembia's Snehal Patel
Asembia was founded more than a decade ago to provide group purchasing and contracting services for new biologic medicines and other specialty drugs that aren't dispensed at traditional pharmacies. These days, the company collaborates with its network of pharmacy members, as well as its manufacturer partners, prescribers, payers and other stakeholders to provide a full suite of services to the specialty pharmacy industry, including the targeted distribution of select drugs and medical devices.

The company has grown as the specialty pharmacy market has expanded with new and often expensive drug launches. Tracking the specialized distribution of these medications through its network of stakeholders can be complex. Many of these specialty medications have a relatively short shelf life. As a result, says Snehal Patel, Asembia's senior director of pharmacy network and market access, "One of the key challenges we face as a distributor is product shelf life and expiration."

For example, Patel says, "One of the products we distribute has 14- to 15-month dating [shelf life] at the time of arrival to our distribution facilities." Additionally, patients receiving this product are guaranteed that it will not expire within less than one year after purchase. That means Asembia and its pharmacy network members have only two or three months, at most, to turn over product inventory before the goods are no longer saleable.

Prior to employing the Truecount RFID system, Asembia and its pharmacy network members either maintained a digital inventory based on their starting inventory minus dispenses, or manually counted and reported inventory down to the lot and expiration. "This was a tedious and unscientific method," Patel explains, "that allowed too much room for human error."

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