GS1 UK Successfully Completes Traceability Pilot

ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

GS1 UK, an independent organization that develops supply-chain standards, successfully completed the Pharma Traceability Pilot program and demonstrated the viability of a complete track-and-trace system for pharmaceutical products in a live, international supply-chain environment.

London (Jan. 26)-GS1 UK, an independent organization that develops supply-chain standards, successfully completed the Pharma Traceability Pilot program and demonstrated the viability of a complete track-and-trace system for pharmaceutical products in a live, international supply-chain environment. The program was part of the European Union’s Building Radio-Frequency Identification Solutions for the Global Environment (BRIDGE) project.

The EU funded the pilot, which was conducted by a team of technology providers that included GS1 UK. Using the GS1 system of standards, the program tracked 15 different drugs as they moved through their supply chains. The medicines were monitored from their point of manufacturing and packaging at plants in Ireland and the Netherlands to their end points: the pharmacy department at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) Trust, both in London. The pilot was based on a mass serialization solution that meets current worldwide pharmaceutical regulations for authentication and track-and-trace technology, according to a GS1 UK press release. The solution provides the healthcare industry with supply-chain visibility of goods shipments.

The pilot program used data carriers such as GS1 barcodes and electronic product code–radio-frequency identification tags to enable full traceability of every drug in the supply chain on all levels of packaging and to monitor their progress in transit. A four-string data set that included the product code, serial number, expiration date, and batch number of each drug enabled the mass serialization of packaging items. Data was stored on EPCglobal’s “EPC Information Services” (EPCIS) system as products passed into and out of each supply-chain participant’s custody. The data in the EPCIS system provided real-time visibility of, and historical data for, the tracked products.

The UK government is stressing the importance of track-and-trace technology for the pharmaceutical supply chain after the recent entry of various counterfeit drugs into the healthcare system. A criminal investigation is underway to determine how fake “Zyprexa” treatment for schizophrenia, produced in China, was sold to NHS. In addition, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency ordered 14 major recalls of fake medicines in the past three years, compared with one in the previous decade, according to the GS1 UK statement.

“With the ability to fully track and trace the drugs that we order from our suppliers, we can feel confident that the medication we administer to our patients is safe and authentic. The added benefits of capturing and recording drug expiry dates and batch numbers can also help increase the hospital’s efficiency, enabling improved inventory management and quicker response times to product recalls,” commented Patrick Martin, senior principal pharmacist at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and the London NHS Trust, according to the GS1 UK press release.

“The success of the pilot demonstrates that the technology required to implement a full international supply-chain traceability system using GS1 standards is available today. The widespread adoption of standardized traceability systems within the healthcare sector will have an incredibly positive impact on improving patient safety, reducing the scourge of counterfeit drugs, and improving efficiency within the healthcare sector,” said Gary Lynch, chief executive of GS1 UK, according to the GS1 UK statement.