The pharma industry's leading radio frequency identification (RFID) vendors recently gathered to share expertise and evaluate the potential of their RFID technologies in a living laboratory, in their quest to produce a market viable solution to drug counterfeiting and supply chain tracking.
The testing included use case scenarios that were developed to simulate pharmaceutical manufacturing, wholesale distribution and retail dispensing and determine how effective current RFID technologies are in maintaining product safety and item serialisation in these settings.
The two-day workshop also encompassed an end-to-end supply chain demonstration and specific focus was also placed on the use of HF and UHF tags operating in a live environment.
A number of prominent firms were involved, including Systech, McKesson, Impinj, Symbol Technologies and Tagsys, each of who provided tags, readers and resources to demonstrate their individual technologies in a wide range of use case scenarios.
This RFID trial was the latest in an ongoing industry initiative called "On Track", which is a pilot programme that has been developed by the RFID industry leaders, in order to learn from the progress already made by other industry leading companies and thus reduce costs and development time, as well as gain real-world experience with product serialisation in a technology-agnostic environment and apply this knowledge into practical commercial serialisation installations, said a statement released by Systech.
"Top vendors have assembled to help understand how RFID technologies can maximise patient safety in the pharmaceutical industry," said Joseph Ringwood, vice president of sales and operations, Systech.
""On Track" is a living laboratory and is currently the only serialisation pilot program that includes participants across the pharmaceutical supply chain."
Based on the results of the workshop, a white paper will be developed and made available to the manufacturers, vendors, wholesalers, and retailers associated with the On Track program.
The global demand for smart packaging using new technologies such as RFID is set to grow to $4.8bn (€3.8bn) in 2011 and reach $14.1bn in 2013, according to a recent report by research firm NanoMarkets.
The demand is being driven by changes in consumer demographics and the need for more convenient and anti-counterfeit solutions in pharma packaging, to ensure product quality and usability, and improve supply chain efficiency and security.
However, at present the penetration of smart packaging in the pharma industry is still very low due to the prohibitive costs involved.
Clearly, a world of opportunities awaits for equipment suppliers, material suppliers, technology providers, converters and printers who can come up with cost-friendly smart packaging solutions.