Pharma’s RFID Exhaustion

Companies are tired of the hype and are looking for action.

By Bert Moore, Director, IDAT Consulting & Education

There's a belief in some sectors that there's a sort of "exhaustion" setting in concerning radio frequency identification (RFID) for pharma. After so much hype and publicity, many people think the industry is simply tired of hearing about it and has stopped paying attention.

There's some truth to that view. The publicity frenzy has died down — but not because RFID is a dead topic. Rather, it's because there's more real activity and less arm-waving. And media attention has turned to other topics, such as mostly-imagined threats to privacy posed by RFID and the implanting of RFID in humans for medical identification.

Mandates are still in place and, while there are some allowances being made in implementation schedules and conformance, neither Wal-Mart nor the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) have backed off on their requirements for RFID on pharma shipments. The FDA is still encouraging the use of RFID.

With UHF Gen2 becoming available, many companies are now in a new, more productive learning phase. The availability of read/write RFID for EPC means that companies can feasibly look at internal uses of RFID to determine whether they can develop an ROI that will allow them to move beyond mere slap-and-ship compliance.

While much of the media attention in the past has been focused on UHF (EPC) for shippers and pallets and possible use for e-pedigree, a lot of activity has been going on with 13.56 MHz high frequency (HF) as well.

Vendors are showing solutions using HF RFID for vials to help ensure patient safety for injectables. What's equally important is that attention is being focused on pilot projects and research on the use of HF RFID for e-pedigree.

In the U.S., there is the ongoing study being performed by Purdue (testing both UHF and HF) and a number of e-pedigree solutions being offered by Texas Instruments and other vendors.

The interest is not just centered in the U.S., however. The European Healthcare Group is developing pilot project plans and there has been a recent Request for Proposal (RFP) from China for one million tags for a government-sponsored pharma e-pedigree pilot.

So… is there a sort of "exhaustion" setting in concerning RFID? Absolutely. Companies are tired of the hype and hysteria and are increasingly realizing that they need to start seriously investigating or implementing the technology.

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