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Securing the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain with RFID
Jun 19, 2018

Securing the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain with RFID


Unlike the retail supply chain, which relies on RFID predominantly for inventory control, there are three distinct uses for RFID in the pharmaceutical supply chain. RFID-enabled electronic product codes (EPCs) can be used to identify product, authenticate product, and create additional layers of security around a product.


EPC codes can track and trace a product throughout the supply chain by means of tiny microchips embedded in the product packaging. These tags can be affixed to the package or woven into the label; newer tags are being built into the rims of test tubes. Companies such as Wal-Mart and Target have mandated that their top 100 distributors, many of them pharmaceutical suppliers, implement a pallet-level RFID system to easily scan product as it comes through bay doors or on the conveyor belt. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are now taking RFID to the next level by bypassing pallet-level scanning and tagging each drug package individually for added security and identification.


By using RFID technology to create an electronic pedigree, pharmaceutical manufacturers can track the whereabouts of all product traveling through the supply chain.


One of the challenges today is that according to the Prescription Drug Marketing Act, any institutional pharmacist or gray market wholesaler—even a corrupt one—is considered an authorized distributor of record. When a pharmacist purchases a drug from a manufacturer, he or she becomes an authorized dealer of record (ADR) and is expected to place an ADR stamp on the bottom of each invoice. The stamp suffices as a paper trail or pedigree, allowing criminals to purchase product from a wholesaler or another country and stamp the whole invoice with an ADR signature, creating a fraudulent paper trail, Graham explains.


To combat this problem, manufacturers are implementing electronic pedigree software systems that can read the digital license plate on an RFID tag and then manage that information using a middleware software package supplied by companies such as SAP. A digital signature is added every time a package is scanned through the system.





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