A Safer Pharmaceutical Supply Chain – Is RFID the Answer?
Supply chain management is a business-critical process. When the business is pharmaceuticals and the product is medication, keeping the chain of custody and managing the route between supplier and end-user becomes even more important. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is a growing resource for the medical profession on the front line – and it may now be moving to the back office.
Using wireless radio waves and item tags, RFID technology can identify a person, object or product by reading its unique, numerical code. The potential for using automatic RFID to track medication from start to finish promises the potential to address counterfeit pharmaceuticals, a $32 billion industry that, according to the FDA, represents 10 percent of the global market.
RFID data can be transferred from a medication’s label to a computer system, using an RFID reader, where the data is verified and logged to help track products at various levels. This means medication can be sourced from the manufacturer to the distribution center to a pharmacy.
RFID does not yet have both feet firmly placed in the Pharmaceutical industry’s back office. The technology is not inexpensive and RFID is still gaining momentum in the medical space. However, current industry requirements are spurring the development of RFID standards and applications, which will in turn cause the need to comply with these standards. As more RFID tags are produced to manage compliance, cost will likely go down in turn.
RFID has the potential to streamline the Pharmaceutical supply chain, reduce labor costs and track product. This tracking strengthens the transparency of the supply chain, provides greater consumer protection and translates product authentication directly to patient safety.