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Partnership Targets Flexible, Low-Cost NFC for Pharma

Schreiner MediPharm is offering a new line of smart tags for pharmaceutical products, made possible by leveraging PragmatIC's ConnectIC family of flexible circuit boards.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 17, 2020

Printing and specialty labels company Schreiner MediPharm is offering a new line of flexible, low-cost radio frequency identification (RFID) and Near Field Communication (NFC) labels intended to help drug companies provide a digital connection with patients and retailers. The labels are intended for use in pharmaceutical vials, syringes, auto-injection devices or medical applications so that individuals can capture information by tapping a mobile phone or reader near a product.

The NFC solution's new labelling options are made possible by Schreiner MediPharm's partnership with PragmatIC. Several pharmaceutical companies are currently evaluating or piloting the new label options, says Arne Rehm, Schreiner MediPharm's product manager for RFID and NFC solutions, though these companies have asked not to be named.

Schreiner MediPharm's Arne Rehm
Schreiner MediPharm already offers HF, NFC and UHF RFID solutions customized according to the requirements of a particular customer's use case. NFC and HF solutions are mainly used for product authentication by enabling interaction with smartphones or connected devices. UHF RFID, on the other hand, is being employed for classic bulk reading or long-range logistic applications from a large number of individual containers, Rehm explains, thereby providing inventory or supply chain management functionality.

Several trends are contributing to the growth of NFC and UHF RFID in the pharmaceutical market, Rehm reports. In the case of UHF, drug companies and retailers are better able to track the flow and inventory of high-value medicines from manufacture to patient, as well as monitoring expiration dates and enabling fast and automated recalls. In recent years, Rehm says, NFC is also being adopted to help patients take their medications. With the integration and support of smartphones, he adds, NFC solutions are a tool to improve the interaction and use of products.

In January 2019, several of Schreiner MediPharm's pharmaceutical clients began piloting an NFC-based system known as the Smart Vial Kit, which utilizes an NFC tag attached to product packaging in order to identify when specific medications are taken (see NFC Helps Track Medication Use in Clinical Trials). The challenge for Schreiner, Rehm says, has been that in the past, "We have often been confronted with requirements where not all the features of classic RFID chips were required, but the thinness, flexibility or costs were of particular importance."

According to Rehm, "We have been following the developments of PragmatIC for our purposes for quite some time now." But since mid-2019, he says, "We have intensified our cooperation to offer our customers the best possible selection of individual connectivity solutions." With regard to ConnectIC, he adds, "PragmatIC offers a great solution, which can also be further adapted to special customer requirements." The goal is to make RFID labels accessible and affordable for the pharmaceutical companies, which means providing labels that could be used on everything from high-value drugs to consumable devices.

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