Technology Partnership Tracks Injectable Drugs from Factory to Patient

By Claire Swedberg

Schreiner MediPharm is providing a customizable RFID label for application directly onto liquid pharmaceutical vials and syringes, with Kit Check's drug-management solution, to identify medicines from manufacture to administering and thereby improve drug safety.

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Pharmaceutical label company Schreiner MediPharm has teamed up with Kit Check to release a technology-based solution that includes Schreiner MediPharm’s customizable UHF RFID-enabled labels, known as RFID-Labels, and Kit Check’s reader stations and management software. The system is intended to help drug companies, hospital pharmacists and healthcare providers automatically track injectable drugs. The companies say the solution is designed to improve the safety and traceability of parenteral medications (liquid drugs injected rather than swallowed) from the point of manufacture to a hospital pharmacy and on to a patient’s bedside.

With the system, syringes and vials can be equipped with Schreiner MediPharm’s RFID-Labels, applied at the point of manufacture, which can then be read at hospitals via a Kit Check RFID tag-reading station. The linked serial and batch numbers, as well as expiration dates, can be identified as each item is removed from shelves, loaded onto trays or administered to a patient. If any products are set to expire or could have been tampered with, a user can receive an alert before it is administered to a patient.

Images courtesy of Schreiner MediPharm and Kit Check

According to Nick Petersen, Kit Check’s VP of corporate development, the partnership provides a way to simplify the process of using RFID for two types of stakeholders: drug manufacturers and healthcare providers. For hospitals, the Kit Check system provides a solution for reading pharmaceutical labels upon receipt, as well as for tray building and administering. Hundreds of U.S. and Canadian hospitals are already implementing the Kit Check system at their pharmacies to act as receiving terminals for medications, he reports.

These scanning stations, available in a variety of sizes for different pharmacy workflows, are connected to Kit Check’s cloud-based software to track inventory and manage kit and tray replenishment. For pharmaceutical manufacturers, Kit Check has designed a solution by which manufacturers receive pre-encoded labels for their vials and syringes, and they can associate the labels with particular drugs on their manufacturing line conveyor in real time.

Schreiner MediPharm already offers both NFC- and UHF RFID-based labels for its drug maker customers (see Partnership Targets Flexible, Low-Cost NFC for Pharma). This latest partnership, however, offers new innovations, according to Arne Rehm, Schreiner MediPharm’s product manager for RFID and NFC solutions. The firm, he explains, “is always on the lookout for applications where the company can provide added value for its customers and partners.”

While drug companies and pharmacies use Schreiner MediPharm’s RFID-Labels for supply chain management, Rehm notes, there has been a challenge when it comes to parenteral drugs, “due to the negative influence of liquids on the reading range.” Liquids can absorb radio transmissions and thereby make tags inoperable. However, he says, the firm has developed new labeling solutions to improve readability. “In particular,” Rehm states, “the integration of the UHF inlay directly into the specially designed printed labels for the primary container is the innovation here.”

Additionally, Kit Check has further developed its reader hardware in such a way that the system works with UHF RFID technology, even when tags are applied to liquid medication vials. Traditionally, users of RFID technologies at hospitals had employed a protruding RFID tag attached to a drug’s container, which required manual attachment. “In the future, this will no longer be necessary,” Rehm says, since the company’s new RFID-Labels can be automatically attached to drug containers in the same way that standard printed labels are attached.

With Schreiner MediPharm’s labels, a pharmaceutical manufacturer or contract manufacturing organization (CMO) only needs a single label for product identification, including the RFID function, and can combine this with additional features and functionalities from the company’s portfolio. For instance, they can utilize security features for tamper evidence and brand protection, removable documentation parts, or integrated hangers for infusion bottles that do not lend themselves to an adhesive label.

As part of the partnership, Schreiner MediPharm has achieved “Works with Kit Check” certification, signifying which solutions and products are compatible with Kit Check’s hardware and software solution. That means Schreiner MediPharm only employs RFID tags in its customizable labels that are equipped with the proper certification. The company also produces its product-specific labels according to the drug company’s visual and technical requirements—for example, in-screen, flexo or digital printing—and converts the suitable RFID tags. “Our customer processes the RFID labels as usual,” Rehm explains, “and applies them directly to the drug containers.”

For those using the Schreiner MediPharm labels with Kit Check’s RFID reading functionality, Kit Check outfits a user’s manufacturing line with one of its RFID readers, which stores item-level drug data in the company’s cloud-based Bluesight Registry service. Hospitals can also access that data. In this way, pre-tagged medications can be delivered to pharmacies ready for use, while manufacturers can stay informed of each product’s location and status.

Kit Check’s RFID-based medication inventory-tracking and automated tray-processing solution is currently in use at more than 500 hospitals throughout the United States and Canada. During the coming months, Kit Check intends to launch its first pre-tagged generic partnership. Partnering with generic pharmaceutical companies, Petersen estimates, will enable the percentage of products frequently used with RFID inlays to rise from 8 to 12 percent this year to as much as 40 percent in the future. “This is where our partnership with Schreiner MediPharm is of vital importance,” he states, since Schreiner is a key provider of UHF drug labels, including liquid vials and syringes.

“By and large, our goal is to contribute to increased product and patient safety,” Rehm says. “The right patient should receive the right medication in the right condition at the right time.” Down the line, he adds, such solutions will help companies meet this goal, while at the same time reducing systemic costs for hospital management, such as the expense of manually applying RFID labels to medication containers.

Typically, once a label is encoded and launched in the system with a specific product, it can be read at a hospital’s pharmacy or at a patient’s bedside. For instance, as products are received at a hospital from the drug company, the Kit Check reader station can capture each tag’s ID number and update the pharmacy’s inventory data. When trays are loaded to be administered to patients, the Kit Check reader also captures the tag IDs on each tray, and the software stores and manages that data, as well as displaying any necessary alerts.

Finally, Kit Check is bringing other solutions with additional functionality for hospitals through the use of its Bluesight registry. One example of this integration, currently under development with a “Works With Kit Check” partner, would allow tags to be read at a patient’s bedside via a handheld or mobile reader before drugs are injected or otherwise administered.

That final read could help healthcare providers to create a record and allow them to view data in real time regarding which drugs were provided to which patients. “Mainly,” Rehm says, “this prevents application errors or the use of counterfeits or refilled containers.” The Schreiner MediPharm labels with the Kit Check solution will be available to Kit Check’s existing and new customers.