IBM Unveils RFID Program to Battle Counterfeit Drugs

August 15, 2006

IBM last week unveiled a radio-frequency identification (RFID) system for tracking and tracing pharmaceuticals. The system is designed to make it more difficult for counterfeit drugs to get to market, the company said.

The IBM RFID system for pharmaceutical track and trace uses blended RFID software and services to automatically capture and track the movement of drugs through the supply chain. RFID tags are embedded on products at the unit, case and pallet levels and authenticate the product from manufacturers to wholesalers to hospitals and pharmacies. Each tag contains a unique identifier that can be linked back to descriptive product information such as dosage and strength, lot number, manufacturer and expiration date.

Beyond Conterfeit Drugs

Some experts say that RFID’s usage will expand beyond the battle against counterfeit drugs. It’s just a matter of time before drug, device and biologics companies see the value in RFID and embrace the technology to improve product quality, speed recalls and work more efficiently and effectively with regulators, IBM’s RFID guru Paul Chang told PIR.

“The benefits of RFID are significant throughout the supply chain,” said Chang, Worldwide Development, EPCIS Solutions, IBM Software Group. He also testified July 13 as part of the Information Technology Industry Council before a Senate RFID forum to discuss its benefits in the healthcare industry.

The new IBM system helps manufacturers and distributors improve performance by reducing the cash tied up in inventory, targeting recalls and enabling faster response to market demand, IBM said in an Aug. 8 release.

The system is based on the IBM WebSphere software platform and an architecture that allows clients to reuse existing assets, thereby building new applications quickly and at a lower cost.

The FDA is also pushing RFID. In addition to calling on Congress to get involved in advocating it for anti-counterfeiting efforts, the FDA recently said it will “fully implement” regulations related to the Prescription Drug Marketing Act of 1987, requiring drug distributors to provide documentation of the chain of custody for drug products throughout the distribution system (PIR, June 21).

For more information on IBM’s RFID initiative, go to www.ibm.com/solutions/businesssolutions/sensors.