RFID Pharmaceutical Tracking Pilot Rolls Out

By Admin

This week saw the announcement of four companies rolling out what is considered the first commercial electronic pedigree program for pharmaceuticals.


This article was originally published by RFID Update.

June 2, 2005—This week saw the announcement of a roll-out for what is considered the first commercial electronic pedigree program for pharmaceuticals. Information technology services heavyweight Unisys of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, will provide implementation services to drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Connecticut, and seventh-largest pharmaceutical wholesaler in the U.S. H. D. Smith of Springfield, Illinois. The companies will use E-Pedigree software from Cambridge, Massachusetts-based SupplyScape to track Purdue’s OxyContin, a painkiller popular on the black market, from the factory to the H. D. Smith distribution center.

The companies hope that the pilot will serve as a model and stimulant for future e-pedigree systems throughout the industry and country, more of which are expected in coming years as laws and regulations are introduced mandating their use. (Five U.S. states have already passed such laws, with Florida’s being the first to go into effect in July of 2006.) Purdue’s vice president and chief security officer Aaron Graham was quoted as saying, “By partnering with H. D. Smith in this pilot protocol, we hope to create a model that the industry can follow.”

The electronic pedigree system uses either RFID or bar coding to record each drug bottle’s distribution history as it makes its way from manufacturer, through the wholesalers, down the supply chain, and, eventually, to the pharmacist’s shelf. At every point in the chain, a bottle’s shipment and receipt information is recorded, making a “certified chain of custody” which can be verified on-demand. (More information available here.)

The pharmaceutical industry has historically had a hard time fortifying its diffuse distribution networks from the infiltration of counterfeit drugs. Such drugs can slip into distribution at any of the thousands of small wholesalers around the country, and are then unwittingly sold as the real thing. The industry is drained of revenues, and, more frighteningly, customers consume pills that are not what they seem.

Electronic pedigrees represent a move by the industry to clamp down aggressively on the problem. RFID makes sense as the technology of choice because it allows the reading and writing of a small footprint of information directly onto a tagged object. And unlike many other retail consumables, drugs’ high price justifies the item-level tagging cost required to make the system work. This first pilot by SupplyScape, Purdue, H. D. Smith, and Unisys will be watched closely; its successes and failures will determine the direction pharmaceutical tagging takes going forward.

Read the announcement from SupplyScape