This is a writing sample by “nycghostwriter,” AKA Barbara Finkelstein. It is a news story published on “Selling for IBM,” the IBM Corporation intranet. You can get professional ghostwriting services from a business writer. Email me or fill out the short form on my contact page.

Selling for IBM | 19 April 2004

Article Summary

Drug counterfeiting operations are prevalent in nearly every country and are increasing in the U.S. RFID technology is expected to help manufacturers and distributors track pharmaceuticals from plant to pharmacy — as well as aid in drug recalls and shipping processes.

When a drug made with non-sterile water entered the distribution chain, public health officials were alarmed. This incident is only one of nearly two dozen abuses documented recently by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and indicates efforts by crime operations to profit from counterfeit drugs.

Organizations such as the FDA and an array of businesses are turning to radiofrequency identification technologies (RFID) to protect consumer products and the processes used to transport them from plant floor to retail shelf.

RFID technology has already been implemented to varying degrees in different industries — retail, aerospace and defense, and travel and transportation industries, to name a few. Benefits to public health and safety are evident in applications under development for the pharmaceutical industry where “sensor and actuator” solutions will help drug manufacturers track pharmaceuticals at all stages of distribution.

To gain dominance in the growing RFID marketplace, IBM recently formed “Sensor and Actuator Solutions, an outgrowth of the company’s emerging business opportunities initiative, which systematically targets new markets in life sciences and other prime growth areas. The new organization will focus, in part, on developing RFID and industrial automation technologies to help drug companies and healthcare organizations manage supply chain operations, track products from factory to retail store, comply with the federal Prescription Drug Marketing Act and undermine criminal counterfeiting activities.

Tagging pharmaceuticals will tell wholesalers, doctors and pharmacists where the product originated, how many stops it made, at what temperature it should be stored and when it will reach its expiration date. Track-and-trace capabilities can signal authorities when unauthorized shipments across international borders or are diverted from health providers, according to Forrester Research.

Counterfeits are everywhere

Sensor and actuator technologies are expected to help the FDA work with the World Health Organization, Interpol and other international public health and law enforcement agencies to combat the spread of counterfeited drugs in virtually every country. Recent evidence suggests that more than 50 percent of anti-malarial drugs in Africa are counterfeit.

IBM already is vying for RFID engagements against Sun, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Accenture, Deloitte and niche developers, all of whom seek to help pharmaceutical companies build a logistical record for drugs as they move through the supply chain. This electronic “pedigree” system will help companies reduce opportunities for counterfeiting — as well as improve shipping, return processing and recall operations.

Technology challenges

RFID in the pharmaceutical industry began gaining traction after Wal-Mart asked its top 100 suppliers to make all pallets and cases traceable by the end of 2005. The trend-setting global retailer recommended using electronic product code (EPC) technology, a species of RFID.

Forrester — and the FDA — acknowledge that RFID technology is unproven. Vendors will have to answer questions about the durability of an electronic tag after it undergoes sterilization and the feasibility of tracking individual packages when bulk pharmaceuticals are repackaged. They’ll also have to improve the software now in use to orchestrate the highly regulated pharmaceutical distribution process.

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