Checkpoint Releases RFID Label for Metallic Drug Packaging

By Claire Swedberg

The Spiro Plus M750 label, certified by the DoseID Consortium, is designed to offer strong performance in environments containing liquids and high tag densities.

Radio frequency identification is being used to track pharmaceutical products from the point of manufacture to administration to patients, though the packaging sometimes causes challenges for the technology, due to the presence of highly reflective glass, metallic materials and liquids. RFID technology company  Checkpoint Systems, a division of  CCL Industries, aims to resolve these challenges with a UHF RFID tag known as the Spiro Plus M750 label, which it released commercially in September 2021.

This is the company's first product aimed specifically at the pharmaceutical industry, according to Checkpoint Systems. In parallel with the new product offering, Checkpoint has joined the  DoseID Consortium, an organization focused on ensuring the interoperability, quality and performance of RFID products as they manage medications and equipment. The consortium has certified the Spiro Plus for use by hospital pharmacies, drug manufacturers and other supply chain members.

Checkpoint's Spiro Plus M750 label

As healthcare companies seek management solutions that automatically identify individual units of the drugs they receive, store and administer, RFID tags are increasingly being applied to items such as glass vials and syringes. The capture of every unit's unique ID number by an RFID reader helps hospitals modernize their restocking processes, according to Karl Hoelper, CCL Healthcare's director of marketing and smart packaging. RFID can also track expiration dates, medication compounding histories and recalls, while ensuring patient safety.

CCL Industries is a secondary packaging company that provides specialty label and packaging solutions. The markets CCL serves include food and dairy, homecare and laundry, specialty products, tubes and healthcare packaging. The company's CCL Healthcare division has a long history with and a global commitment to the pharmaceutical industry, and it has been an original organization member of DoseID

As an RFID technology provider, Checkpoint Systems develops and manufactures RFID products for its sister CCL companies. Among the early innovators of inlays based on  Impinj's M700 series chips, Checkpoint was the first company to achieve ARC certification with the M700, Hoelper says, adding, "So it made sense [for CCL] to utilize Checkpoint's expertise for this particular inlay solution." Checkpoint has been serving the retail and food and beverage markets, among others, with RFID labels and smart packaging. This expertise, manufacturing capacity and innovation, it claims, enables the firm to support CCL's companies as they make packaging solutions for the drug sector.

Karl Hoelper

The Spiro Plus M750 was designed to address challenges involving RFID use around common drug packaging, Hoelper says, including metallic or foil packs. "Because of the variety in materials used in manufacturing pharma containers and the various form factors of their contents," he states, "pharma antenna designs are very challenging and key in the success of the application." Therefore, Checkpoint designed the inlay with a customized antenna so it would work well in crowded environments, no matter what packaging materials or liquids were present. During testing, and with early adopters, he says, it has offered reliable read performance across a variety of containers, contents and applications.

The inlay leverages features of Impinj's M750 IC, including its high read sensitivity and AutoTune technology. These features, according to the company, optimize the performance over a wide frequency range within the UHF RFID band. The label measures 26 millimeters by 14 millimeters (1 inch by 0.6 inch) and can be built into packaging or applied via an adhesive. Though specifically designed to work on liquid-filled glass containers such as vials and syringes, Hoelper adds, the Spiro Plus can also be used on several types of containers. This year, the  Auburn University RFID Lab tested the inlay for read and write sensitivity and backscatter value when applied to pharmaceutical containers, under the ARC Program's Spec S.

The new inlay is expected to provide major benefits to pharmaceutical companies looking to apply RFID tags to glass-filled containers, the company predicts. The combination of its antenna design and the M750 chip creates an inlay able to perform well on what have traditionally been the most difficult containers in the drug market, Hoelper says. As CCL identifies solutions required by the pharma industry, the company intends to draw from Checkpoint's RFID technology and consultation.