Officially announced in February the goal of the test is to track the bottles from the packaging line to distribution centers to distributors to retailers’ distribution centers and finally to CVS and Rite-Aid retail pharmacies.
Participating drug makers include Abbott Laboratories Johnson & Johnson Pfizer and Procter & Gamble and participating distributors include Cardinal Health and McKesson Corp. At press time the test had no specific end date though reports on initial test results are expected to be published this fall through industry trade groups. This project uses track-and-trace technology provided by RFID chip maker Matrics and supply-chain software vendor Manhattan Associates. Accenture is an advisor and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration is also involved.
In the test five drug makers are each applying RFID tags to bottles of two types of medications for a total of 10 products. Specific drug names were not disclosed. The manufacturers chose larger bottles used by pharmacists to fill patient prescriptions so the RFID tags wouldn’t block information printed on labels.
The goal is to determine if RFID tags can replace paper “pedigrees” that some states are beginning to require. The U.S. Senate is considering similar measures as part of the drug importation debate. “Paper pedigrees aren’t going to be workable in our environment” says Ron Bone senior vice president of distribution support at McKesson. The use of RFID “is a way to make pedigree [mandates] workable and make the supply chain secure.”