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RFID: Combating counterfeiting

Packagers share enthusiasm at February's RFID World event in Grapevine, TX. Purdue Pharma's 60-day pilot of RFID- enabled OxyContin at the item level was summarized by Mike Celentano, the company's associate director, supply chain and RFID systems: "We had fantastic reliability—only 10 to 15 bad tags out of 230,000. We concluded that the fundamental building blocks for RFID-based serialized point-to-point e-Pedigree exists today." He said the company has an interest in case and pallet-level tagging. Ken Reich, TAGSYS marketing director, revealed that Pfizer's item-level RFID program for bottles of Viagra manufactured in France features Web-based authenticity that permits pharmacies to verify the Viagra it receives. Meanwhile, Randall Lutter, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's associate commissioner, policy and planning, reminded attendees that, unlike overseas, counterfeit drugs in the United States are quite rare. He suggested that the rise in cases in 2004 to 58 versus 30 in 2003 may be due to awareness. Final figures for 2005 will see a decline, he said, thanks to proactive investigations.

"The RFID pilots are so well advanced they should no longer be called pilots," Lutter believed. A hybrid of RFID and 2-D bar codes could provide a viable solution until RFID is more universally adopted, he suggested. "RFID and software can create a chain of custody from manufacturing to dispensing that would leave counterfeiters unable to sell their products into the supply chain," he said. "Look for more pilot projects this year."

--By Rick Lingle, RFID editor, Packaging World
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