Practice run for pharma RFID

By Anna Lewcock

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pharmacology

IBM has teamed up with RFID specialist Tagsys to offer
pharmaceutical manufacturers a chance to have a practice run
implementing their RFID track and trace technology ahead of new
legal requirements coming into force in 2009.

The new serialisation pilot kit will be available to manufacturers next month, providing an integrated tracking option using RFID-based technology for item level serialisation of packaged products. January 1, 2009, sees the enforcement of new legislation in California which demands that all prescription drugs sold within the state carry a unique identifier to track products through the supply chain. The traceability must extend from a product's origin at the drug manufacturer all the way down to the pharmacy, with the record or pedigree being updated whenever there is a change of ownership. The pedigree must also be available in electronic form - a so-called ePedigree - and be fully interoperable with the supply chain as a whole. While California will be one of the first regions to make such ePedigrees a legal requirement, this form of electronic track and trace has been a hot topic in pharmaceutical supply chain management circles for several years. The need to protect the supply chain and achieve real-time monitoring of genuine products as they move from one pair of hands to the next has become an increasingly pressing issue, particularly with the ever-growing incidence of diversion and counterfeit drugs making their way into legitimate supply streams. While RFID is not the only option available for item-level serialisation, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has heavily endorsed the technology as one of the front runners in the race to establish an industry-wide norm. The IBM-Tagsys offering is a pilot version of their full-scale pharmaceutical track and trace product, and can be deployed in under four weeks at a cost of $125,000. The pilot kit includes 50,000 Tagsys high frequency tags and 1,000 ultra high frequency tags, an RFID printer and tag readers, IBM software to manage the RFID data software process, and the provision of services to facilitate installation and configuration of the system. The pilot scheme offered by the two firms is intended to show pharma manufacturers "how easily and quickly RFID can be applied in packaging operations, evaluate the accuracy and reliability of the technology at production speeds, and make an informed choice on their path to item level serialisation,"​ according to a company statement. Tagsys will be providing expertise based on its Sigma Six Performance Programme, a quality-of-service programme that guarantees a fewer than four failures in one million read opportunities. The pilot kit can be upgraded to IBM's full solution should manufacturers decide the system is right for them, with the full-blown automated option leveraging a new ePedigree feature in IBM software to meet the impending Californian regulations. With the Californian legislation a little over a year away, a number of firms have been competing to offer companies an effective and compliant ePedigree option to apply to their supply chains. As such, several other companies (including Nosco, Systech and SupplyScape) are also offering RFID-based systems that adhere to the California ePedigree regulations.

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