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RFID Helps Medlog Monitor Pharmaceutical Cold Chain

The Portuguese company is using EPC Gen 2 tags with built-in temperature loggers to ensure that the drugs it distributes have been shipped under proper conditions.
By Rhea Wessel
Mar 26, 2010Medlog, a Portuguese logistics firm specializing in the delivery of medications to pharmacies, is employing RFID-based temperature loggers to monitor the cold chain for sensitive medicines. At the end of 2009, the company expanded its use of radio frequency identification to all six of its warehouses in Portugal. Now, Medlog—which reported sales of more than €300 million ($402 million) in 2008—is considering further upgrades to the system, such as automatic activation of those temperature loggers.

Medlog, a subsidiary of Portuguese pharmaceutical distributor Cooprofar, works to ensure that drugs are stored at the proper temperature from the time they are received from Medlog's 250 suppliers until they are delivered to some 1,000 clients. It does so, according to Paulo Pires, Medlog's logistics manager, in order to comply with E.U. regulations requiring that certain medications be kept at temperatures within a specified range during shipping and handling, as well as to differentiate itself among its competition by offering the service and near-real-time information regarding temperatures along the cold chain during the transport process.

The CAEN A927 temperature logger contains an EPC Gen 2 RFID tag.
The system selects 5 percent to 10 percent of all cold-storage containers on a random basis, Pires says, which are tagged with temperature loggers. By analyzing the data, he explains, Medlog is able to draw conclusions about the condition of the entire cold chain it oversees.

Before RFID was implemented, Medlog did not know the exact temperatures of the medications it transported. The company attempted to track temperatures by having employees attach digital temperature loggers to the interior of its trucks' refrigerated compartments. The loggers had to be switched on manually, however, and after a delivery run, data from the digital thermometers had to be exported into a spreadsheet for analysis. Employees took these steps only once or twice per month, Pires says. What's more, the temperature readings were inaccurate, since they were taken outside the insulated containers in which the drugs were shipped, instead of inside them.

With the help of RFID integrator Creativesystems, Medlog designed and implemented an RFID application featuring semi-passive RFID tags with built-in temperature sensors. The tags are placed inside the isothermal transport boxes in which the medication is shipped.

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