Microtags Allow Medication Identification and Authentication

Pharmacy Times, August 2014 Pain Awareness, Volume 80, Issue 8

TruTag Technologies aims to ensure that medications and other products are what they say they are by using specially coded, microscopic identification tags that hold information about a drug’s authenticity, manufacturer, and expiration date.

“As TruTag becomes more widely adopted in the prescription pharmaceutical supply chain, one day in the future, pharmacists will be able to scan incoming and outgoing product for verification of the drug’s authenticity, manufacturer, expiration date, and so forth,” Kent Mansfield, TruTag Technologies president, told Pharmacy Times. “Also, this will enable the consumer to participate in the verification process, which could have tremendous impact on validating the presently suspect online pharmacy market, and change the way consumers receive prescription products.”

The edible microtags provide identification, authentication, brand protection, and quality insurance to a number of goods—including food items and consumer goods, the product’s website notes. The 50- to 100-micrometer size permits covert or semicovert use, either in a product or on a product, package, label, or security fiber. The tags can be applied via sprays, coatings, and other methods, allowing to them to be integrated into a number of manufacturing stages.

The tags are biologically inert and are made of spectrally coded silica. According to Mansfield, a sister company developed the technology several years ago, as part of a research project involving drug delivery.

“During the course of that research, it was discovered that the silica could be encoded in a controlled manner, and used in materials for unique identification by decoding at any time afterward,” Mansfield said. “The technology was eventually spun out, and TruTag Technologies, Inc, was formed in 2011 to commercialize the material and reader technology to several target markets.”

Those markets include automobile, aerospace, electronics, batteries, consumer goods, industrial goods, plastics, and coatings, as well as the medication safety and regulation realms, Mansfield said. Regardless of the market, TruTag Technologies goal is to ensure product security. In the case of medication safety and regulation, the silica tags have the potential to remedy some of the shortcomings present in existing security systems.

“Packaging security has been the primary security measure deployed in the pharmaceutical industry for decades,” Mansfield said. “However, these days, sophisticated digital printing and the wide availability of [ultraviolet/near infrared] and other covert ink technologies make copying these measures much easier, so companies are not as able to rely solely on the packaging any longer.”

The pharmaceutical industry and the FDA anticipated the concept of integrating identification and tracking technology into medications, and the FDA in 2011 issued a guidance covering physical-chemical identifiers in solid oral dose forms for anticounterfeiting purposes.

Specially designed instruments read the microtags by detecting the spectral pattern encoded during the manufacturing process. The company’s detectors are programmed to decode the spectral signal, decrypt it, and convert it to data that will verify product origin, and provenance of material or product, Mansfield said.

The most widely tested method for adhering the tags in a manufacturing setting is called film coating, which applies the microtag in very small amounts during a standard step in the manufacturing process.

TruTag is already eliciting awards within technology circles as well. It received R&D Magazine’s 2014 R&D 100 Award, which recognizes significant technology innovations. It also received a gold award at the 2014 Edison Awards, in the Material Science-Nanomaterials category. The World Economic Forum recognized TruTag as a 2014 Technology Pioneer during its 2013 awards ceremony.