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A Strong Dose of RFID

Contributed by Louis Parks:

I just attended the three-day RFID Health Care Industry Adoption Summit sponsored by the National Associations of Chain Drug Stores and the Healthcare Distribution Management Association. This was billed as the single largest pharmaceutical meeting (to date) to discuss and review progress in adopting RFID. 

It was very impressive to see attendees from all aspects of the pharmaceutical supply chain because it is going to take everyone working together to deliver a solution.

Many of us think that a pharmaceutical manufacturer makes a drug and ships it to our local pharmacy who then hands it to us. In reality, a drug passes through an average of nine owners/handlers before being dispensed. This very fluid and dynamic supply chain makes it an ideal environment for those looking to make a fast buck through diverging and counterfeiting our drugs. The industry realizes this and it is also one of the reasons the FDA is pushing for the introduction of RFID.

Seeing a real industry dealing with real implementations and real pilots also shows how far we have to go before RFID becomes the standard ubiquitous technology we all are hoping for. Standards, security, what data should be on a tag, who has the data, who can get the data, what network will carry it, when will that network be ready, the affect of RF on some drugs, and who is paying for everything are just a few of the questions being dealt with in real time. You also need to layer in the vendor’s agendas, the FDA, and each state since much of this regulation involves state bodies.

There are no easy answers and it will certainly take several more years before you see general adoption across the supply chain. Regardless, I am very impressed by the effort, commitment, and resources this industry is applying to adopt RFID for everyone’s benefit. I hope other industries think to look at this group for suggestions and direction. The drug industry’s pioneering will shorten the time to adoption for each and every market that follows.

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