Pilot Program Tests RFID

AUGUST 01, 2006

An important pharmaceutical trial kicked off last month in New Jersey at Cardinal Health's label-printing facility in Moorestown. The company's 2-month pilot program will test radio frequency identification (RFID) throughout the drug supply chain. The razorthin tags are applied to product and shipping containers for the purpose of tracking and identification. RFID is seen as a measure to fight counterfeiting, reduce slowdowns in the supply chain, and make it more difficult for US drugs sold at a discount to foreign distributors or pharmacies to make their way back into the United States.

"Our pilot is unique from some other pilots because it is the first one to track the RFID tags in the supply chain from end to end," explained Troy Kirkpatrick, company spokesman.

The pilot involves 2 products: a brand name drug from a mid-size pharmaceutical firm and a generic. Citing confidentiality agreements, Cardinal could not reveal more about the products. The RFID tags will be applied to bottle labels, cases, and palettes of drugs during the trial. Cardinal will track the tagged shipments as they travel through company warehouses in Philadelphia, Pa, and Findlay, Ohio, and land at an unnamed retail pharmacy. The tags will have data that could include the product's manufacturer and expiration date.

The Moorestown-based facility's involvement will be the implanting of small transponders—radio devices that send the information they contain, when asked by a reading device, into rolls of labels to be shipped to Cardinal's packaging warehouse in Philadelphia, where the labels will be affixed. The company wants to see how well the tags will be read as the palettes go through a large data-reading device and onto trucks.

The products will then be shipped to Cardinal's distribution center in Ohio. The medications will be scanned on arrival and broken down so that the individual containers of pill bottles can be delivered to the test pharmacy. The RFID readers will be used 2 more times on the bottles: leaving the distribution center and arriving at the drugstore. The contents will then be distributed in untagged consumer pill bottles.

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