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Hemophilia Trial Uses EPC, But No RFID

A European trial to track hemophilia drugs—from source to patient—is using an EPC numbering system but not RFID, for now.
By Jonathan Collins
Feb 22, 2006Ireland's National Center for Hereditary Coagulation Disorders (NCHCD) is testing an item-level labeling system that uses Electronic Product Codes (EPCs) to ensure that drugs for treating hemophilia can be traced and identified as they move from the manufacturer to the patient.

Located at St. James's Hospital, in Dublin, NCHCD manages patients with inherited and acquired bleeding disorders. The trial, which began at the end of January, is the result of a two-year project to develop the system. Eventually, NCHCD hopes to try additional technologies, including RFID tags and cell phones with built-in RFID readers or bar code scanners.

Tony Walsh, Domino's Integrated Solutions Group
NCHCD is carrying out the trial in partnership with EPC proponent and supply chain standards organization GS1 Ireland, in a project managed by the Integrated Solutions Group of Domino Printing Sciences. An EPC and the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) are encoded in the form of 2D bar codes onto labels attached to boxes of clotting factor concentrates (CFCs), a product used to treat hemophiliacs at St James's Hospital.

Using a networked system managed by VeriSign, EPC numbers are created and written to 2D bar code labels and applied to the boxes, cases and pallets of Advate CFCs at a manufacturing facility operated by Baxter's BioScience division in Belgium. The labels are then read at points throughout the supply chain.

The trial was initiated in response to the infection of hundreds of hemophiliacs with HIV and hepatitis C as a result of receiving contaminated blood products. By initially tagging Advate CFC—which is manufactured using genetically adapted cell cultures, not human blood—the hospital hopes to find a reliable way to trace human blood derivatives, which are still commonly used.

Boxes of Advate are scanned at Baxter's BioScience division in Belgium.

"Traditional CFC derivatives are more widely used, and we need to track both," says Tony Walsh, European business development manager at Domino's Integrated Solutions Group. "The trial was intended to prove the traceability concept, not show the advantages of any single product over another." He explains that some contamination of blood products was due to mistakes such as products passing their expiration dates, not being kept at the correct temperature or being incorrectly dispensed. The key objectives of the program, therefore, are to implement real-time identification of CFCs to ensure immediate product recall, optimize stock management and reduce wastage.

Temperature sensitivity and the short shelf life of the CFC can also lead to a significant spoilage problem. "One hospital was losing £800,000 [$1,395,000] worth of CFCs each year," he says. On an average, 40,000 vials of CFCs are administered annually to hemophiliacs in Ireland.

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