Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is an identification system that uses the radio frequency waves for tracking purposes and transmission of information regarding objects and/or individuals, normally referred as assets or inventory. There is no need of manual contact with a reader nor is there a necessity to be in the line of sight of the reader in RFID. RFID enables the user to store information which can be further relayed to other management systems.
Small RFID chips can hold up all the relevant information regarding the pharmaceutical product like lot numbers and temperature history. With the counterfeiting of pharmaceutical products being a major problem, RFID promises to be an innovative option.
Radio Frequency is also used for tracking and gathering information about various products. They also help in categorizing products by verifying their identity.
The important characteristics and benefits of RFID which have made it an integral part of the Pharmaceutical industry are –
- Increase in Supply chain efficiency: RFID tags are used to increase supply chain efficiency, resulting in purchase savings and lower costs.
- Easy adoption and flexible usage: RFID systems can be easily installed by the pharmaceutical provider and usedflexibly by tagging all the required objects. The installation and working of the systems are easy and effective.
- Reduce errors by proper information storage: The errors in assigning medication and treating the patients are reduced due the use of RFID. RFIDs can track the required medicines. RFID databases can help in assigning the required medicine to the concerned patient.
- Increase patient monitoring and safety: The safety and security of patients are increased considerably by RFID. With each patient being tracked by RFID, the security is increased multifold times.
- Improve staff, patient and asset workflow: There is an improvement in the workflow of the pharmaceutical staffs and patients with the RFID. RFID optimizes the use of staffs and the comfort of patients. For example, track the amount of time that each patient awaits radiation treatment, and to verify that the correct equipment is being employed. This data can help the pharmaceutical provider in analyzing as to what the service provided requires for better outputs.
- Decrease in labor requirements: RFID being an automated echnology leads in a major decrease in manual work requirements. RFID helps in making major activities automated and therefore efficient.
- Enhance efficiencies of existing resources: RFIDs enhance efficiency of various pharmaceutical processes. There is low error generation from the technology due to its easy usage. Low error generation leads to cost savings for the pharmaceutical. RFID gathers and analyzes data regarding staff members’ movements, in order to ascertain how the unit could be more efficient.
On the other hand, a major limitation of RFID has been the cost of using the system and also lack of any standardized RFID.
Purdue Pharmaceuticals were among the first pharmaceutical companies to adopt RFID as a technology to combat counterfeiting. Through RFID the company wanted to serialize and track and trace its products.
Purdue first started using RFID in 2004 largely in response to Wal-Mart’s call for its suppliers to use RFID tags. In the following year Purdue produced the very first batch of RFID tagged Oxycontin. Oxycontin was the major product of Purdue Pharmaceuticals. The usage of RFID has only increased with time. In 2007 Purdue crossed the 2 million mark in RFID tagged oxycontin.
The problems faced by Purdue were mostly related with the number of tags and the durability of tags. The tags went through various packaging methods and had to be sustainable.
Though Purdue were open to both Bar Coding and RFID, the latter technology proved to be the more effective one. RFID has successfully combated counterfeiting to a large extent for Purdue. The pharmaceutical company next wants to use it on the item level to make the processing even more efficient.
Pfizer, the makers of Viagra and now the Covid-19 vaccine, were majorly hit by counterfeiting and adulterated selling of medicines. They fought back by implementing RFID in 2005. Through RFID it wanted to control the counterfeiting through trace and track system.
In as early as 2006, Pfizer called for use of RFID in all its bottles rather than a few in USA. Although only a single wholesaler was ready to begin tagging, the trend has been positive. Pfizer continues to reap the benefits of RFID. With counterfeiting reducing considerably through RFID, RFID has also led to systemization.