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DPT Tries a Dose of RFID

The contract drug developer and manufacturer has been exploring both RFID and 2-D bar-code serialization, and is preparing an RFID pilot for one of its customers, dermatologic drug company Galderma.
By Beth Bacheldor
Nov 17, 2008DPT Laboratories, a contract drug developer and manufacturer specializing in semi-solid and liquid pharmaceuticals, says it is planning an RFID pilot with one of its customers for early 2009. Leading up that project, the company has been regularly polling its customers regarding their RFID, serialization and electronic-pedigree (e-pedigree) needs, and is currently studying the technology.

Much of the work is driven by California's e-pedigree legislation, slated to take effect 2015 to 2017. An e-pedigree is an electronic record used for tracking the movement of prescription drugs through the supply chain, with the goal of combating counterfeit or adulterated prescription drugs. As defined by California's state law, an electronic pedigree requires serialization of individual items, so that each item has a unique ID number. Such a unique ID could be printed as a two-dimensional bar code on a label attached to the item. But many of the companies affected by the law, including DPT, report that RFID is currently the most efficient way to achieve serialization for the creation of an e-pedigree. That's because with RFID labels, all individual items won't need to be individually scanned by line-of-sight readers, as they would with 2-D bar codes.

In addition to California, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set a deadline of January 2010 to put in place a pedigree system that would protect the pharmaceutical supply chain (see All Eyes on FDA for Drug E-Pedigree). Although the FDA is also considering paper-based pedigree systems that do not employ RFID or bar-coding, the agency has shown an interest in RFID technology. Systems as outlined in both California's and the FDA's pedigree laws would need to be comprehensive because they would have to track items from the point of manufacture to the point of sale.

DPT Laboratories' business model puts the company in a unique position. It must be able to respond to the needs of its customers, some of which may ask it to handle the creation of an e-pedigree. But because those clients have yet to figure out their own e-pedigree plans, DPT Laboratories has to make sure it doesn't drop the ball. "What we need to be is all things to all people," says Alan Green, DPT Laboratories' logistics director, adding that his firm will likely need to support 2-D bar codes and RFID in most of its production lines at its San Antonio, Texas, and Lakewood, N.J. plants.

DPT Laboratories has polled its customers about what they wanted regarding e-pedigrees and RFID—first, a year ago, and as recently as about three months ago. "The stock answer we get is, 'We have no idea. You tell us,'" Green says. "Another response we got was they plan to go the cheapest route—2-D bar codes—because they don't know what the future holds, and still others told us they will go with RFID."

DPT must also take into account the needs of its sister company, Healthpoint, a specialty pharmaceutical firm that manufactures drugs and medical products for diseased and traumatized skin and related soft tissue. DPT Laboratories handles product manufacturing for Healthpoint. "Even if none of the other customers want us to do their e-pedigrees," Green says, "our sister company does."

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