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Improved pedigrees in the pharmaceutical industry - Anti-counterfeit drugs with help of RFID
31 March 2010
University of Stuttgart
A detailed product proof and improved security against counterfeiting pharmaceutical products become more and more important, especially nowadays when customers can order their drugs online. The legislative pressure increases primarily for reasons of patient safety, incorrect medications, and drug counterfeiting. These issues can be prohibited by absolute traceability of the drug’s packaging. Modern identification procedures such as RFID (radio frequency identification) are able to provide transparency in the pharmaceutical logistics. However, the metal packaging, like blister or tubes, that is often used complicate the identification. Scientists of the Institute of Mechanical Handling and Logistics (IFT) at the University of Stuttgart explore opportunities for a practicable and entirely detectable identification within the research project “RadioPharm”.
In industrial practice of the pharmaceutical industry, especially in small and middle sized companies, RFID is rarely implemented or not at all. The main reason is the difficult technical implementation and the resulting high costs. The researchers of Stuttgart work pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies (one of which is located in Stuttgart and one which operates online), and others to be prepared for possible legislative changes in context of obligations regarding the product proof and the development of cost efficient implementation of the RFID technology. They analyze the whole supply chain of chosen drugs from manufacturer to wholesaler, up to the pharmacy, and on to the customer.
The logistics experts planned and implemented an identification system for different drug packaging. The most innovative is the tagging of transponders on item-level (incl. write and read processes), not only on case or pallet level. It was aimed to get an identification of every single transponder, despite the disturbing influences of liquids and metals. This requirement creates new challenges, especially for the RFID technology that occurs in the pharmaceutical area. The co-workers of the IFT built a test rig for multiple test scenarios as a demonstrator to proof the technical realization of the developed system.
With this test rig, it can be determined if the transponders could be reliably accessed independent from the dosage form (like liquids, tablets, ointments), both for item identification and bulk identification. As a result, it is possible not only to illustrate a production line of a pharmaceutical manufacturer, but also the verification process after order picking at the wholesaler. By the use of these systems customers will have a higher security when buying drugs.
The research project RadioPharm is promoted by the German Federation of Industrial Research Associations „Otto von Guericke" e. V. (AiF) and Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi). It is mentored by the German Logistics Academy (BVL).