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UK-US RFID Rx authentication pilot

Six pharma companies including Merck are involved in a trans-Atlantic pilot to have pharmacists authenticate drugs using RFID.

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RFID analysts IDTechEx, supported by GS1 UK, a provider of the EPCglobal network in the United Kingdom, has just-published RFID in Action 2006, a special report that covers Global RFID implementations.

The slick 96-page magazine chronicles 22 case histories drawn from the IDTechEx RFID Knowledgebase, including several of interest to packagers.

One of those is a 2-page report on a UK-US drug authentication pilot that included Merck Generics UK, Merck Pharmaceuticals, Novartis, Schering Health Care, and Solvay. Trials in the UK were completed in 2005 and trials in the US will end in 2006 with commercialization expected in 2006.

The pilot involves unique serialization with both RFID and bar-coding that enhances anti-counterfeiting of drugs. The high-frequency 13.5 MHz read-only tags are supplied by UPMRaflatac; readers are supplied by Philips and the system integrator is Aegate.

Purpose, timing, and scope

The report states that the primary purpose of the initial UK pilot was to determine if pharmacists would accept a step change in their dispensing process to conduct a scanner-based authenticity check of medicines before dispensing. A total of 44 pharmacies across England and Wales took part in the pilot study conducted between October 2004 and January 2006. The study involved more than 180ꯠ pharmaceutical products ranging from needles to Nurofen (an ibuprofen product) that were scanned and checked for authenticity at the point of dispensing by the pharmacist using a custom-built RFID scanner. The drug was authenticated if it matched details stored on a secure database, and rejected if not recognized.

“We’re always interested in ways to help improve the service we provide to our customers especially if it is related to patient safety,” said Fliss Davies of Cordon Pharmacy. “The scanner has proved a very innovative addition to the dispensing process, and the extra checking step has increased our confidence that the selected item is both correctly dispensed and genuine.”

Further copies of the report are available at

-Rick Lingle, Technical and RFID Editor

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