Regulators Plan New "Electronic Pedigree" to Track Drug Packages

FEBRUARY 01, 2005
Ken Rankin

A new high-tech system for tracking prescription drug packages with radio signals moved a step closer toward implementation with the establishment of a blue-ribbon task force of pharmacists, regulators, and information technology experts responsible for creating standards for a nationwide Rx "electronic pedigree."

The group was formed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) in an effort to forge uniform software standards for the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to create an electronic "chain of custody record" or "pedigree" for each package of drugs distributed by manufacturers and wholesalers to pharmacies.

According to NABP officials, electronic pedigrees, able to track and trace a drug product from the time it leaves a drug manufacturer until it is dispensed to a patient by a pharmacist, could become a reality nationwide within the next few years.

In addition to curbing diversion and assisting in recalls, such an electronic Rx-tracking system would also provide state pharmacy boards with a valuable new enforcement tool, NABP officials said.

FDA officials consider RFID technology one of the best means to improve the security of the nation's drug supply, and lawmakers in California and Florida have already passed legislation to either allow or require e-pedigrees for intrastate shipments of pharmaceutical products.

Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.