Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a valuable tool that can ensure supply chain reliability and accuracy in the pharma sector – especially in drug tracing systems. It is therefore no surprise that the technology is showing an estimated year-on-year growth of 10% as pharmaceutical suppliers, warehouses, and healthcare providers, such as the UK’s NHS become more aware of its benefits.
Though not new, (the technology was first invented in 1948, but not applied commercially until the 1990s), RFID readers are becoming more efficient and potentially lifesaving, when used to monitor drug quality and product movement. Although RFID is a more reliable technology, until recently the use of bar coding (especially two-dimensional (2D) barcoding) has been a more widely accepted form of electronic identification in the pharmaceutical industry.
RFID, however, has many advantages over linear 2D bar coding. A barcode on a pharmaceutical bottle contains a stock-keeping unit (SKU) representing the national drug code (NDC) and may contain other information such as expiration date, pack size, and lot number. The barcode cannot change without being replaced with a new sticker. In addition, the barcode is easily counterfeited, whereas an RFID tag is almost impossible to counterfeit.
With instances of drug fraud, including the supply of substandard drugs and falsified drugs on the rise globally, RFID can be used effectively in conjunction with other anti-counterfeiting technologies, such as electronic product codes (EPC) for real time tracking, tracing, and drug authentication. This combination of systems creates a near impassable moat for counterfeiters.
Tech-based security solutions
Stringent regulatory frameworks are another factor triggering the adoption of RFID readers in supply chain operations as it can assist in maintaining compliance and certification regulations set by governing bodies.
Tech-based security solutions auger well for pharma warehousing, productivity, efficiency, and business logistics. The need for safe transportation and storage is further amplified by the growing trend for personalised medicine and treatment. As next-generation RFID tags and readers continue to develop, drug manufacturer and wholesalers will soon be able to implement an efficient labelling system to reduce medical error and improve the safety of personalised pharma products.
RFID and the broader healthcare industry
Hospitals are integral part of a complex and interconnected healthcare industry, and as these facilities expand and grow it will create new growth opportunities for RFID technology providers and vendors. In addition, the smart labelling trend is poised to grow stronger. The adoption of RFID for medical labelling in hospitals will make a marked difference in limiting medical errors, while improving patient outcomes in the next few years.
Near-field communication and what it means to the industry
The alarming rise in deaths caused due to toxic, substandard, and falsified medical products is triggering the hunt for additional technologies for drug tracing. As the pharma industry steps into the future with the Internet of Things (IoT), near-field communication (NFC) technology is emerging as a credible tool to weed out falsified products. It also offers enormous benefits in improving patient engagement through a bi-directional communication channel and in turn fosters a culture of co-vigilance within a company. NFC chips and tags are likely to gain popularity in the future as the pharmaceutical industry continues its move towards a smarter and more automated future.
When it comes to technology, change is the only constant. As RFID becomes more accessible and affordable, so it will drive more modern technologies such as NCF.
Currently though, RFID is the leading technology that offers failsafe way of mitigating loss and adulteration in the pharma industry. With its use among drug manufacturers, wholesalers, and end users, including hospitals and clinics hitting an all-time high, drug manufacturers and wholesalers can comfortably offer a safer and more secure logistics and warehousing solution that will improve supply chain management in the pharmaceutical industry.
The ability to build supply chain accuracy and reliability is a key consideration to future proof your business. If you need a knowledge partner, contact Clarity Pharma now.