Don't Burn Your Bridges

As the world evolves toward a paperless pedigree, RFID promises to be a key trace and track tool, but “bridge” and complementary technologies remain essential

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offered its strongest endorsement to date of RFID, promising “enforcement discretion” for pharmaceutical RFID tagging programs that meet certain criteria. FDA says it wants to help prevent drug companies from wasting resources on both paper and paperless efforts. It even suggested that RFID would likely replace barcoding in “10 or 20 years.”

Well, 10 to 20 years is a very long time, and the cost, performance and business challenges posed by RFID mean that “bridge” technologies such as barcodes, digital watermarks and alphanumeric labels will remain important for the near term. Companies that have already invested in barcoding certainly haven’t wasted any of their time.

No doubt, you’re painfully aware of RFID’s promise, yet equally aware of the endless hype surrounding the technology, as well as the challenges that RFID poses in a pharmaceutical manufacturing setting. A short list includes:

  • High implementation costs
  • Questions of data ownership with business partners
  • Radio frequency interference
  • Need for both HF and UHF technologies
  • Facility layout and design issues
  • HMI challenges
  • Data integration and IT questions
  • Package geometry and material
    Product composition issues

In this first issue of Track and Trace Insider we’ll focus on RFID, zeroing in on cost and frequency issues. Exclusive articles examine the first phase of Accenture’s JumpStart program and interview a leading electronic pedigree technology vendor, while comprehensive, technically detailed white papers address key questions:

  • Rockwell Automation focuses on opportunities to realize value from RFID within the plant and warehouse
  • TI, Philips and Tagsys discuss frequency options
  • AIM, our content partner, offers a basic blueprint to keep in mind when launching an RFID program.

We’ll also look at the people involved in drug security: what Rudy Giuliani and his team are up to, for instance. And, did you know that noted anticounterfeiting consultant Lew Kontnik recently joined Amgen? You’ll find that information in this e-newsletter.

Future issues will cover not only RFID but all track-and-trace and drug security options, from packaging to taggant technologies. As political debate intensifies over drug importation, security will continue to be a major issue. Each month, with our partner, AIM, we will bring you the news and analysis you’ll need to stay on top of a rapidly changing world.

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