Tracking Medication With IBM’s RFID Tech

IBM upgraded the functionality in its RFID (radio frequency identification) technology tailored for the pharmaceutical industry that it introduced in December.

The company’s WebSphere RFID Information Center version 1.1 will now help pharma companies comply with the ePedigree laws going into effect in California and elsewhere. The application also has new alert functionality that can help identify counterfeit products.

Both issues have risen to the top of pharma executives’ list of industry concerns, according to product manager Jennifer Kahn. At the same time, since the application was first introduced, it has become clear it can be deployed in other industries or for other uses.

“For instance, we are looking at using it to track shipping containers for international firms,” she told CRM Buyer. It can also be used to track airline parts and retail items, she added.

ePedigree Ready

Of immediate concern to users is California’s forthcoming 2009 law requiring electronic pedigrees to be developed and kept updated for every drug that passes through the supply chain — from manufacturers to distributors, pharmacies and hospitals. These labels will be attached to individual bottles or packages of medicine.

The WebSphere RFID Information Center’s ePedigree feature is a data repository that allows clients to share information with trading partners to authenticate pharmaceuticals using either RFID, 2D barcodes, or a combination of barcodes and RFID.

It generates the ePedigrees through a track-and-trace framework that is based on the EPCglobal Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) standard.

The product also allows users to set up an alert to watch for such potential problems as duplicate serial numbers or late shipments or products that are found to be past their expiration dates, Kahn said. The application then alerts the appropriate personnel when such irregularities are flagged.

IBM also enhanced its reporting tools in this version, allowing clients to access and analyze data using browser-based reports for faster decision making. The report data can be used for such activities as reverse logistics and inventory management.

Noninvasive Solution

The application provides minimal disruption to the overall business operations, according to one early adopter.

“IBM’s approach to ePedigree is unique in that it enables ePedigree compliance without significant impact to the existing business processes and legacy IT systems,” said Shay Reid, vice president of integrated solutions at AmerisourceBergen. The pharmaceutical distributor is using the product in a Sacramento, Calif., pilot.

“This system will be a helpful tool in our industry to comply with mandates, various trading partner requirements, and enable new business use cases,” he added.

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