Pharmaceutical Supplier Tests RFID's Track & Trace Capabilities

Laboratorios Gador, one of Argentina’s largest pharmaceutical suppliers, has completed an RFID system pilot, evaluating this supply chain technology’s ability to track and trace pharmaceutical drugs at the item, pack and pallet level. The company supplies medications to nearly 2.5 million patients each month through its distribution network.

The successful test, which was conducted by Telectrónica, Impinj, Zebra Technologies and UPM RFID, is believed to be the first RFID pharmaceutical pilot to be completed in Argentina, demonstrating the technology’s ability to identify, track and secure high value products that are subject to counterfeiting, diversion and theft.

According to research firm Havocscope Black Markets, counterfeiting pharmaceutical drugs is the number one black market activity globally, costing the industry $200 billion annually.

Using RFID technology to track and trace pharmaceutical drugs presents several technical challenges. RFID readers use radio waves to energize RFID tags and retrieve data stored on them. However, Laboratorios Gador’s RFID-tagged medications, which include liquids, are packaged in metal blister packs and tubes, all of which interfere with RFID radio waves. In addition, Laboratorios Gador’s automated packaging lines produce hundreds of units per minute, requiring that RFID systems encode and read variable data on individually tagged items at extremely high speeds.

Reading Laboratorios Gador’s pallets is equally complex, as they contain 360 packs of metal-wrapped medications stacked 18 rows deep, creating multiple barriers to the radio waves generated by RFID readers.

"It was critical that we design an RFID system that optimized the traceability of goods throughout the production process without compromising operational efficiency," says Lic. Alan Gidekel, CEO, Telectrónica.

Telectrónica designed an EPCglobal UHF Gen 2 RFID system that met all of these requirements, identifying individual items and accurately associating multi-item packs to pallets. The system was comprised of Speedway Revolution readers, reader antennas and bulk encoding software from Impinj; Trap UHF RFID inlays from UPM RFID; RFID printers from Zebra Technologies; and traceability software from Telectrónica. If fully implemented, the system would help Laboratorios Gador increase inventory availability and delivery accuracy, while enhancing patient safety and confidence in authenticated goods.

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