The convergence of the underlying technologies of radio broadcasts and radar, known as radio frequency identification (RFID), may be able to aid in the prevention of the theft of pharmaceuticals.
The development of RFID began during WWII and began to be put to commercial uses by the late 1960s, according to Pharmaceutical Technology Magazine. Currently the technology is used in numerous everyday applications, such as traffic management, automated parking and the tracking of library books.
Now it appears that the pharmaceutical industry may be ready to capitalize on the technology to combat the problem of pharmaceutical theft. According to the news source, RFID could track and trace pharmaceuticals as they are moved throughout the supply chain. In addition to keeping track of medication movements, it may also help to ensure that counterfeit drugs do not enter the market. RFID would also help facilitate the recalls of drugs.
There are four main components of RFID technology, the RFID tags, the RFID reader, the antennas and the computer network that links the reader. The RFID tags contain a radio receiver, an antenna and a device that allows the tag to send information back the reader. The tags can come in a variety of sizes and many are small enough to be implanted in animals for tracking purposes.
The RFID reader works by sending a signal out that is picked up by the tags. Different bands along the spectrum can be used for different purposes. For instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration uses the HF band for the monitoring of the pharmaceutical supply chain. One of the major advantages of the RFID system is that it helps store data that once had to be physically housed in a variety of locations, making finding specific information difficult. RFID tags can be used to store information in one central database, making the laboratory more transparent and more accessible.
According to the news source, RFID tags can provide safety to the pharmaceutical supply chain in part by closing information gaps. The prevention of the theft of pharmaceuticals is essential as stolen drugs may be tainted. Not only can the thieves cut the drugs with dangerous substances but by simply not storing and handling the medication properly its integrity can be compromised, harming those who eventually consume them.