Pfizer begins shipping Viagra with RFID tags

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer Inc. has begun to ship its Viagra product with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to its customers in the U.S. It’s part of the company’s initiative to promote patient safety by combating pharmaceutical counterfeiting.

RFID technology is being added to all Viagra sold in the U.S. to enable pharmacies and wholesalers to verify the unique electronic product code, or EPC, on Viagra packaging. Viagra was selected for the RFID project because it has been a major target for counterfeiters.

Pfizer has invested several million dollars to date in the technology, which discourages counterfeiting because it is both difficult and expensive to duplicate. RFID tags incorporate the EPC into each package, case and pallet of Viagra. Pharmacists and wholesalers use specially-designed electronic scanners that communicate the code over the internet to a secure Pfizer website.

"The primary goal for adding the technology is to enhance patient safety," says Tom McPhillips, vice president of Pfizer's U.S. Trade Group. "We want pharmacists who fill prescriptions for Pfizer medicines, and patients who use those medicines, to have increased confidence that they are receiving authentic product and not a potentially dangerous fake. We are creating additional barriers for criminals who might attempt to counterfeit our products."

The company's application of RFID is not yet capable of tracking and tracing medicines through the distribution system. Track and trace requires that all parts of the supply chain invest in compatible technology and agree to capture and share information about product movement. Pfizer will continue to explore the uses of this technology — including track and trace — during the coming year.

Pfizer's application of RFID also does not allow for the collection of any patient information.

The company is working cooperatively with standards setting bodies, state governments, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), industry groups and its customers to establish policies for the widespread application of RFID in the future. Pfizer anticipates that it will take several years before RFID is applied broadly throughout the pharmaceutical industry. Cost will be a significant consideration, as well as the readability and reliability of RFID tags. Standards must be developed to govern technology and data exchange. And RFID also will require the pharmaceutical distribution industry to change the way it does business.

www.pfizer.com/counterfeit

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