RFID: A Slow Go in Pharmaceutical Adoption

February 16, 2006
Pharmaceutical Technology Editors

ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

The Pharmaceutical Industry has been slow in adopting radio frequency technology (RFID) to help control diversion and counterfeiting, according to a recent study by ABI Research (Oyster Bay, NY, www.abiresearch.com). In fact, only 10 drug products are expected to be shipped with RFID tags or smart chips embedded in the labeling in the coming year.

The Pharmaceutical Industry has been slow in adopting radio frequency technology (RFID) to help control diversion and counterfeiting, according to a recent study by ABI Research (Oyster Bay, NY, www.abiresearch.com).

In fact, only 10 drug products are expected to be shipped with RFID tags or smart chips embedded in the labeling in the coming year. As previously reported in Pharmaceutical Technology ePT, companies with highly counterfeited drugs such as Pfizer and Perdue Pharma have already pioneered the tracking technology on shipments of "Viagra" and "OxyContin," respectively. However, the lionshare of manufactures have yet to embrace RFID, citing the high costs of implementation and the need for more pilots as key reasons for not taking the plunge.

ABI says that one reason for the slow adoption is the US Prescription Drug Marketing Act (PDMA), which has been put on hold until Jan. 2007. The legislation requires drug makers to implement some form of pedigree or track and trace technology to determine a drugs point of origin and where it has traveled throughout the supply chain. When the act was met with frustration by industry, it was given a temporary stay, allowing individual states to create their own pedigree laws.

Since there has been no federal mandate for companies to use RFID as the sole form of pedigree tracking, drug manufacturers use cheaper methods of tracking drugs such as 2-D barcodes that hold more information than standard barcodes, but cost significantly less than the far more robust RFID tags.