Obstacles to Overcome
The FDA in its 2004 report "Combating Counterfeit Drugs" stated that the expiration of PDMAs stay should coincide with the widespread adoption of RFID for track and trace in the pharmaceutical supply chain. That prediction was overstated: Most pharmaceutical wholesalers and distributors are already moving ahead with bar-code technology to satisfy the immediate mandate, according to ABI analyst Sara Shaw, who released a July 11 research note titled "RFID Industry Implications of the FDA Update.""Most companies in the industry agree with the FDAs vision of using RFID to satisfy pedigree requirements in the long term, so the PDMA will spur adoption of RFID. "Now that the law requires companies to provide pedigrees, they will have more incentive to begin implementing RFID." However, as the Cardinal Health pilot pointed out, there are still issues to overcome with RFID. Shaw points to a laundry list of them, the biggest of which is agreeing on standards. There is still some major confusion in the industry as to whether UHF promoted by the Gen 2 standard is better than HF (high frequency) for use on pharmaceuticals. The question is whether the higher frequency radio waves would negatively impact sensitive bio-chemicals. While most manufacturers had seemed to be leaning toward UF as the standard, Cardinal tested UHF in its pilota big vote in that standards direction. Shaw said the ongoing frequency debate will only serve to slow down the adoption of RFID technology. "As a result, a mixed environment is likely to develop in the pharmaceutical industry," she said. However the frequency debate pans out, AmerisourceBergen sees its current PDMA strategy as a temporary fixone that can likely be improved with the use of RFID. "Weve been working on PDMA for more than a year, to implement systems," said Brungess. "But we feel thats a stopgap measure and not something we want to see rolled out on a grand scale." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.
"In the short term, the industry will most likely use bar-code technology to comply with state and federal pedigree regulations," said Shaw.