November 15, 2004

RFID and Pharmaceuticals

Where has your drug been? Your pharmacist may be able to tell you in complete detail, though you won't be able to verify the info yourself. Yet. (Article).
WASHINGTON - The makers of the impotency drug Viagra and the painkiller OxyContin said Monday they will add radio transmitters to bottles of their pills to fight counterfeiting.

The technology will allow the medicines to be tracked electronically from production plant to pharmacy, a development the Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) said is an important tool to combat the small but growing problem of drug counterfeiting.

Shipments of OxyContin bottles with the transmitters will begin this week to two large customers, Wal-Mart and wholesaler H.D. Smith, the drug manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, announced.
GlaxoSmithKline's on board, too - in development. As the transmitter chips become more affordable, their use is likely to be more prevalent. Wal-Mart's really big on this, and, if you're not a technophile, so is Mobil. Those Speed Passes that link to your credit card? Yep, you guessed it - same thing.
An FDA (news - web sites) report earlier this year concluded that radio transmitters should lead the way in fighting drug counterfeiting. But the Bush administration declined to order pharmaceutical companies to adopt the technology or other measures to combat the problem.

1 Still, administration officials said they expect widespread use of RFID by 2007.

In the late 1990s, the FDA conducted an average of five investigations of counterfeit drugs per year. Since 2000, that figure has risen to more than 20 investigations per year. Last year, federal officials stalked counterfeit versions of Procrit, which helps people with cancer and AIDS (news - web sites) combat anemia, and Lipitor (news - web sites), a cholesterol-busting drug. The fake Lipitor prompted the recall of more than 150,000 bottles in 2003.

The RFID tags look like ordinary labels but are really computer chips with antennas wrapped around them. The tag works like a passport, picking up a notation at each stage of the distribution chain when the chip is activated. Sensors at distribution centers use radio waves to activate the tags, which are electronically read and stamped with a record of where they have been.

A counterfeit drug would have no such record.

Federal officials worked through the kinks in a $3 million pilot project that included pharmaceutical manufacturers Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co. and Wyeth and such retailers as CVS Corp. and Rite Aid Corp.


Posted by hln at November 15, 2004 12:40 PM | Technology | TrackBack

When they talk about "counterfeit", are they talking about pills that contain no medicine but just LOOK like the real thing, or are they talking about medicines that weren't manufactured under license?

Anyway, I'm personally VERY glad that Bush didn't order the drug companies to do this. If it makes good business sense, companies will do it. If it doesn't, they why should they be forced to?

Posted by: Harvey at November 16, 2004 09:30 AM

They should do the same thing for dollar bills... follow the dollar's travels around the country.

Posted by: brs at November 16, 2004 11:29 AM

brs - see :-)

Posted by: Harvey at November 17, 2004 09:37 AM

Or see ;-)

Two weeks without a post, Baby-y-y! At least I announced a hiatus before splitting for the month! :)

Posted by: Tuning Spork at November 27, 2004 07:47 PM