Pharma Packaging Employs RFID Technology in Labels and Caps

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Equipment and Processing Report, PharmTech Equipment and Processing Report eNewsletter 09-16-20, Volume 13, Issue 10

Broader application of RFID in pharmaceutical packaging benefits caregivers and patients.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is finding applications beyond serialization and anticounterfeiting protection to improve supply chain management and benefit caregivers and patients, particularly patients with disabilities. Broader deployment in the healthcare industry will help propel the global RFID tag market to a compound annual growth rate of about 10% to reach $29.4 billion in 2030, according to a study by Transparency Market Research (1).

For the caregiver side, Fresenius Kabi has added RFID-tag-equipped labels on medications commonly used in operating rooms. The company’s +RFID portfolio launches with products in prefilled syringes and vials. John Ducker, president and CEO of Fresenius Kabi USA, explained, “Inventory management is a high priority for hospitals, especially in the current environment. This combination of smart technology with the comprehensive range of our anesthesia and analgesia portfolio is designed to answer our customers’ call to make it easier to assure that the right products are in the right places at the right time (2).”

Based on GS1 global standards for RFID, the tag contains all the data that hospitals use to identify, locate, and manage inventory. The technology also enables item-level serialization and enhances patient safety. Adherence to GS1 standards ensures full interoperability and compatibility. “Our customers will now be able to get RFID smart-labeled medications directly from a manufacturer,” noted Gordon Krass, CEO of IntelliGuard, one of the first pharmacy automation vendors to read and manage +RFID medications (2).

United Kingdom-based Elucid Digital Health has developed a smart cap dispenser based on its Pill Connect bottle. “We believe that reducing the pill dispensing mechanism from a bottle to a cap means that any pharma [manufacturer] can now use the Pill Connect system without having to make changes to … existing production lines,” said James Burnstone, CEO of Elucid Digital Health (3).


Under consideration for clinical trials and high-value medicines, the screw-on dispenser cap encourages compliance, messages patients, records ambient temperature and humidity, provides real-time reports for doctors or monitors, and maintains a comprehensive adherence record. The cap also can be made to fit any bottle and adjusts to any tablet/capsule size. A mobile phone app prompts the patient to take a dose. If dose dispensing doesn’t occur, an automated text or call can generate an immediate intervention. Patients can also respond through the app about why they are skipping a dose. If the patient’s phone is unavailable or not charged, the cap can be unscrewed manually to dispense a dose. When the phone becomes available, a message is sent to update the dosing record. A clock-based lock prevents double dosing (3). 

For visually impaired consumers, CVS Pharmacy has introduced Spoken Rx, a feature in the CVS Pharmacy app that makes it possible for a smartphone to read aloud an RFID-tagged prescription label including patient name, medication name, dosage, and directions. “The in-app feature gives patients more flexibility, providing the pertinent prescription information out loud wherever and whenever they need it,” said Ryan Rumbarger, senior vice-president, Store Operations at CVS Health. Hearing this information in English or Spanish enhances safety, adherence, and independence for visually impaired patients. The number of CVS Pharmacy locations capable of offering the RFID labels will ramp up from 1500 at the end of 2020 and is expected to reach all locations by the end of 2021. Developed in collaboration with the American Council of the Blind, the Spoken Rx capability is said to be the first in-app prescription reader available from a national retail pharmacy. Enrollment can be completed via smartphone or in-store and is free (4). 


  1. Transparency Market Research, “RFID Tags Market,”, accessed Sept. 1, 2020.
  2. Fresenius Kabi, “Fresenius Kabi Introduces RFID Smart Labels for a Range of Essential Medications,” Press Release, August 18, 2020.
  3. Elucid Digital Health, “Smart Pill Bottle Becomes One-Size-Fits-All Dispenser Cap,” Press Release, May 21, 2020.
  4. CVS Health, “CVS Pharmacy Introduces New App Feature for Reading ‘Talking’ Prescription Labels,” Press Release, July 8, 2020.

About the author

Hallie Forcinio is Packaging editor for Pharmaceutical Technology.