All lots of Viagra from Pfizer's plant in France into the United States were to have 30- and 100-count bottles and their cartons tagged starting on December 15, said Peggy Staver, director of trade product integrity at Pfizer U.S. Pharmaceuticals. Staver spoke at the conference, which was sponsored by the National Assn. of Chain Drug Stores and Healthcare Distribution Management Assn.
Pfizer is the first major brand-name U.S. drug company to implement RFID, although Staver admitted that the company's one-product-only implementation is being made relatively easy by the fact that Viagra is manufactured in only one plant and on only one packaging line. The company is using 13.56 MHz tags on the bottles and 915 MHz tags on cartons and pallets.
Staver estimated her company would spend between $4.5 and $5 million in the first year tagging Viagra. That included upgrading the French packaging line, as well as supplies, including tags, which one industry participant estimated costs Pfizer 55¢/tag. Pfizer will be writing and reading to the bottle tag on-line. In addition, Pfizer will be printing a two-dimensional bar code and an EPC logo on each bottle. The bar code and RFID tag will use the same EPC number.
Staver explained that Pfizer was also putting on the bottle language noting the bottle's carrying of a radio-frequency device, so no one could accuse Pfizer "of spying on consumers." It did that even though she says an infinitesimal percentage of the 30/100-count bottles will end up in the hands of consumers. Nearly all patients will receive their doses repacked in pharmacy containers.
--By Stephen Barlas, Contributing Editor