Initially, pharmaceutical companies were focused on employing radio frequency identification to collect data related to pedigree regulations. There was an expectation, at least in the United States, that individual states or the federal government would pass laws requiring that drugs be tracked from the point of manufacture until consumption, and that a secure e-pedigree be created to ensure that drugs were not counterfeit.
States postponed the introduction of such laws, however, due to the cost and complexity involved in implementing them. And drug companies began focusing less on RFID as an anti-counterfeiting tool, and more on its supply chain applications. Distributors receive medications in large quantities from a number of suppliers, and must then break these shipments down into smaller shipments bound for pharmacy chains or individual stores.
Getting those shipments right all the time is a challenge—but RFID can help. By tagging drugs in bulk, a distributor can quickly locate containers within a warehouse, manage sell-by dates and then pick the correct items and confirm an order prior to shipment. Benefits include a reduction in labor expenses, as well as fewer picking and shipping errors.
Some drug makers are also tracking containers with chemicals and raw materials within their factories. What’s more, pharmacies are tracking totes that are shipped from distribution centers to stores, in order to ensure that the right totes are shipped to a particular retailer.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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