An end-to-end e-pedigree pilot undertaken in 2006 by Cardinal Health, Inc. (Dublin, OH, http://www.cardinal.com/) indicates pallet- and case-level ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tagging works better than item-level tagging at present, but it still needs improvement to achieve read rates above 99% consistently (see "Tagging Tools to Provide E-Pedigree, Pharmaceutical Technology, September 2006). "A great deal of additional work needs to be undertaken by stakeholders across the industry to address significant challenges [related to item-level tagging], including global standards, privacy concerns, and the safe handling of biologics," says Renard Jackson, vice-president and general manager of global packaging services for Cardinal. "Until those challenges are addressed, direct distribution of medicine continues to be the best near-term approach to maintain the highest levels of security and efficiency in the pharmaceutical supply chain," he states. Jackson concludes, however,"Cardinal Health's test of RFID under real-world conditions has demonstrated that the technology has real promise to provide an added layer of safety."
Item-level read rates varied from less than 10% to nearly 100%, depending on the product, situation, and read location. In general, primary packages read well when cases were scanned one at a time. Item-level read rates decreased when full pallets were scanned and at read points beyond the unit-to-case aggregation point. Read rates for tagged product in mixed-product totes varied.
At the case level, full-pallet loads often can be read at 100%. Further testing is needed to determine whether process changes and hardware tuning can achieve 100% read rates consistently. It also may be necessary to use bar code technology to complement and serve as a back-up to RFID.
Another pioneer in RFID technology, Purdue Pharma L.P. (Stamford, CT, http://www.purduepharma.com/), is deploying item-level tagging to improve pharmaceutical supply-chain efficiency and security and enable e-pedigree recordkeeping (see "Tagging Tools to Provide E-Pedigree," Pharmaceutical Technology, September 2006). The company is achieving 100% read reliability and exceeding read-rate requirements with UHF electronic product code (EPC) Class 1 Gen 2 technology (RFID tags equipped with "Monza" chips, "Speedway" RFID readers, and near-field antennas from Impinj, Inc., (Seattle, WA, http://www.impinj.com/).
Tracking software certifies, captures, and analyzes the data from the RFID tags ("TIPS" serialized product-tracking solution, SYSTECH International, Cranbury, NJ, http://www.systech-tips.com/). "The ... technology has been selected as an integral part of our packaging-line improvements to help the company establish an e-pedigree process that will significantly improve the delivery of products from the factory to the pharmacy counter," says Aaron Graham, vice-president of corporate security and chief security officer at Purdue Pharma.