Sun Offers Item-Level RFID for Pharmaceuticals

The vendor has partnered with Raining Data and SupplyScape on a solution tailored to FDA recommendations calling for "electronic pedigrees" for end-to-end drug tracking in the supply chain.

Sun Microsystems Inc. on Monday will roll out its second RFID solution in as many weeks, targeting the latest offering at item-level use for fighting counterfeiting in the pharmaceutical field.

Along with partners Raining Data Corp. and SupplyScape, Sun will demo the new RFID Solution for Drug Authentication at this weeks HIAS (Healthcare Industry Adoption Summit) show, said Vivek Khandelwal, senior product manager for Suns RFID Business Unit, during a briefing.

Ultimately, the combined solution is tailored to a set of recommendations issued by the federal Food and Drug Administration last May that call upon the pharmaceutical industry to establish "electronic pedigrees" for end-to-end drug tracking in the supply chain.

"But the pharmaceutical supply chain is fairly complex, with lots of different manufacturers, and many wholesalers and retailers in between," Khandelwal said.

Pharmaceutical retailers for example, include hospitals, in addition to large mass merchandisers and smaller pharmacies. "So we are taking two different approaches to this," according to the senior product manager.

Suns new solution will be geared to customers that are "still playing around with" item-level RFID in limited deployments, as well as to those that are further along the road to complying with the full FDA recommendation.

Sun is calling one of its approaches EPC Authentication and the other Pedigree Authentication.

Customers pursuing EPC Authentication will run the software over the epcGlobal Network, Khandelwal said.

Some analysts predict that the pharmaceutical field will be one of the first to adopt item-level RFID, because drug prescriptions are typically priced high enough to enable the manufacturer to absorb the cost of item-level tagging.

Item-level tagging is also starting to be applied for supply chain tracking of pricey retails goods such as DVDs and consumer electronics products, said Sarah Shah, an analyst at ABI Research, during another interview.

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The new solution has been tested and qualified as compliant with Tagsys item-level RFID tagging and reader technology.

RFID tags and readers alone dont constitute enough technology to support drug pedigrees, according to Suns Khandelwal. "Middleware is needed, too," he said. Suns new RFID solution for the pharmaceutical vertical market also includes Suns Solaris OS 10, Java Enterprise OS, Java System RFID Software, and Java System Identity Management Suite.

Other ingredients include Raining Datas ePharma Application Suite and TigerLogic XML Data Management Server, along with SupplyScapes E-Pedigree—an application for reading, managing and certifying pedigrees across the supply chain.

At the end of October, Sun and another set of partners rolled out a horizontally oriented RFID application for keeping track of computer hardware and other equipment assets.

In months to come, Khandelwal said, Sun will add to its growing repertoire of RFID Industry Solutions with additional vertical and horizontal applications, addressing these other markets together with "domain expertise" partners, too.

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