Pharmaceutical Industry Makes an Attempt at Unit-Level RFID Tagging

A group of pharmaceutical manufacturers began shipping individual bottles with affixed RFID tags in July in an experiment to test application of the new technology at the item level to combat counterfeiting and furnish "pedigree" documentation of the movement of drugs throughout the supply chain, a requirement expected by both state and federal governments.

"The RFID initiative is groundbreaking in that it brings together leading companies across the pharmaceutical industry to not only design and evaluate ways to improve supply chain integrity and accuracy, but also to help consumers receive authentic medicines," says Jamie Hintlian, a partner in Accenture's Health & Life Sciences practice.

The program, known as Project Jumpstart, involves manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. Pharmaceutical companies that are part of the initiative include Abbott Laboratories, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer. CVS and Rite-Aid are the participating retailers. The project is being managed by Accenture, and includes RFID track-and-trace technology from tag maker Matrics and supply chain execution vendor Manhattan Associates.

The group is working closely with the FDA's Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force. The FDA earlier this year recommended that pharmaceutical companies deploy RFID tagging at the unit level on the most commonly counterfeited drugs in 2006, with expansion to most bottled drugs by 2007. The industry estimates that as much as 7 percent of all drugs sold globally are counterfeit, and that as much as $40 billion in inventory is lost or stolen along the supply chain every year.