RFID goes to work to help prevent errors, tampering


Due to pressure from regulators, the pharmaceutical industry is working to implement Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in pharmacies, hospitals, and healthcare facilities to help prevent medication errors. This technology is also being used in a variety of ways to help meet FDA drug pedigree requirements.

Pliant Corp, a manufacturer of plastic films and packaging materials, and IBM Corp have teamed up to create a plastic packing product printed with conductive circuitry that contains a RFID tag. If a package is tampered with, the RFID chip stops working and the point of interference can be identified using a RFID portal system (a stationary tracking device) or a hand-held device.

IBM Corp also has created a RFID-enabled distribution system now being tested by AmerisourceBergen Corp in its main warehouse. Tags attached to pharmaceutical cases are scanned upon entering the warehouse; departure times and destinations are recorded and reported to the pharmaceutical manufacturer, creating a complete electronic history.

RFID technology developed by 3M Corp is being used at the Rochester, Minn-based Mayo Clinic to track patients' endoscopy tissue samples. During the 5-month pilot program, 1,800 tissue samples were tracked via RFID-tagged bottles that contained patient and sample information. A clinic spokesperson said the system is efficient, effective, and allows nurses more time for patient care.

RFID technology does not come without challenges. Experts acknowledge several potential problems, including the lack of a preferred version of RFID. The technology is available in 2 main varieties: high frequency and very high frequency, and reader systems cannot understand both versions. There are also systems that rely on microwave signals, Bluetooth technology, and WiFi wireless Internet systems. Industry experts say they also have security concerns, including the potential for physical tampering and counterfeit RFID tags.

SOURCES Goldfarb, B. Is RFID ready to enter the fast lane? To date, lack of standards slows deployment. Pharmacy Practice News website. Available at: http:// http://www.pharmacypracticenews.com/index.asp?section_id=52&show=dept&issue_id=207&article_id=6273.Accessed January 29, 2007.

Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http:// http://www.fda.gov/ora/compliance_ref/cpg/cpggenl/cpg160.900.pdf. Accessed January 29, 2007.

3M RFID technology goes to the hospital: The Maplewood manufacturer signed a potentiallylucrative contract to provide the Mayo Clinic with data-tracking technology. Pharmasentry website. Available at: http:// http://www.pharmasentry.com/news/newsletter.cfm?linkid=0CD15E2A%2D1372%2D54C2%2D61137D1F6E78D6CD. Accessed January 29, 2007.

Gotensparre, S. RFID chip in plastic wrapping keeps an eye on tampering. Available at:http:// http://www.drugresearcher.com/news/printnewsbis.asp?id=73348. Accessed January 29, 2007.

Havenstein, H. Wholesaler set to use RFID to track drugs. Computerworld website. Available at:http:// http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewarticlebasic&articleid=273787. Accessed January 29, 2007.

Vue Technology introduces first UHF solution for item-level visibility in the retail pharmacy; new RFID solution tracks liquids, pill bottles, blister packs and gels. Available at: http:// http://www.marketwire.com/mw/release_printer_friendly?release_id=183132&category=. Accessed January 29, 2007.

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