IBM looks to RFID to fight counterfeit drugs

IBM Corp. unveiled a new radio frequency identification (RFID) system Tuesday designed to stamp out counterfeit products from the national supply of pharmaceutical drugs.

The IBM RFID system for pharmaceutical tracking and tracing uses blended RFID software and services to automatically capture and track the movement of drugs through the supply chain, according to IBM.

RFID tags are embedded on products at the unit, case and pallet level and authenticate the drug -- which can change hands as many as 10 times before reaching the point of sale -- from manufacturer to wholesalers to hospitals and pharmacies. Each tag contains a unique identifier that can be linked back to product information such as dosage and strength, lot number, manufacturer and expiration date.

Renard Jackson, executive vice president for Cardinal Health, said in a statement that RFID, as part of a multi-pronged approach, has the potential to add an additional layer of security and improve efficiency across the entire supply chain. Cardinal has teamed with IBM for a pilot project to test the effectiveness of the system, he said.

In addition to consumer protection, the RFID system will help manufacturers and distributors improve performance by reducing the cash tied up in inventory, streamlining shipping and recalls, IBM said.