IBM Taps RFID for Pharma Industry Helping Protect Consumers From Counterfeit Drugs

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IBM has unveiled a radio frequency identification (RFID) system for tracking and tracing of pharmaceuticals.

The system makes it more difficult for counterfeit drugs to get to market, protecting consumers by helping ensure the drugs they receive match the prescription from their physician.

With nearly one in 12 of the world's prescriptions proving counterfeit each year, the US Food and Drug Administration has cited RFID as the most promising technology to ensure that the medicine in the bottle is exactly what the doctor ordered.

The global pharmaceutical supply chain is highly complicated. From the point of manufacture to the point of sale, drugs can change hands as many as ten times. IBM's software and services are designed to help manufacturers protect product from theft and fraud and avoid replacement costs for product recalls and tarnished brand value.

The IBM RFID system for pharmaceutical track and trace uses blended RFID software and services to automatically capture and track the movement of drugs through the supply chain. RFID tags are embedded on products at the unit, case and pallet level and authenticate the product from manufacturer to wholesalers to hospitals and pharmacies. Each tag contains a unique identifier -- like a license plate -- that can be linked back to descriptive product information such as dosage and strength, lot number, manufacturer and expiration date.

"We hold the security of the nation's drug supply as a top priority and have taken several leadership steps to ensure a safe and secure supply chain," said Renard Jackson, executive vice president for Cardinal Health. "As part of a multi-pronged approach, RFID is a promising technology that has the potential to add an additional layer of security and improve efficiency across the entire supply chain, which is why we have partnered with leaders like IBM in a pilot program to determine its feasibility and effectiveness in a real-world setting."

In addition to consumer protection, the IBM-developed RFID system helps manufacturers and distributors improve performance by reducing the cash tied up in inventory, targeting recalls and enabling faster response to market demand.

"IBM's extensive experience with RFID has demonstrated that this technology has unique capabilities to offer in helping protect drugs from tampering," said Paul Chang, RFID/Pharma Executive, IBM. "And in an industry that lives depend on, IBM is leading the way to a safer, more secure supply chain."

The IBM RFID system for pharmaceutical track and trace is based on the IBM WebSphere software platform and an architecture that allows clients to reuse existing assets, thereby building new applications quickly and at a lower cost for development.

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