Packaging giant Rexam has fixed a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip in pharmaceutical bottles in response to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendations to make use of the technology to track products through the supply chain.
Rexam has teamed up with RFID specialists Traxxec to develop the new tracking and anticounterfeiting system, which allows users to read and write information, such as batch releases, dates, product information and operational details, onto a chip. The firms promise that the fixed tags are 100 per cent reliable and faster to read than conventional bar codes.
The company explains that plastics, at the bottom of the pill containers encapsulate the chip, keeping it away from the dose forms to avoid potential migration of toxic materials. In addition, the chip is on the primary container - in keeping with the FDA's objective of eventually moving toward unit-level tagging of drug products - and kept distance from other chips in the product batch, which should help ensure a reliable read.
"The FDA did not mandate the pharmaceutical industry to use RFID but they identified RFID as 'the most promising technology for implementing electronic track and trace in the drug and supply chain'. They expressed disappointment that the industry did not adapt it more quickly," Patrice Lewko, marketing manager at Rexam, told In-PharmaTechnologist.com.
The market for this type of e-smart technology marketing pharmaceutical packaging is being driven by the need for new clinical trial compliance and brand protection measures, creating a market valued at $18 million in 2005. And it will potentially reach to $464.8 million in 2012, according to a Frost & Sullivan report.
The pharmaceutical industry is particularly sensitive to security issues within the supply chain and therefore potentially has a lot to gain from this track-and-trace technology. Some companies are already adopting RFID for part of their pharmaceutical production and distribution on a widespread basis - Pfizer, for example, is using RFID to track-and-tracesupplies of its erectile dysfunction drug Viagra (sildenafil), which has become a target for counterfeiters.
Despite the reluctance of drug manufacturers to incorporate RFID in their packaging operations, RFID guru Peter Harrop, chairman of the consultancy IDTechEx, told In-PharmaTechnologist.com that he believes the benefits in patience compliance, fighting counterfeits and managing the supply chain will quickly prevail over industry's concern over the technology's costs.