Tag for the Traceability of Drugs

The need of a traceability system implemented at item level is becoming more and more essential in many business processes and, among the different potential enabling technologies, passive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is undeniably the most adequate candidate. Indeed, its simplicity of use as well as its very attractive cost-benefit ratio, give a strong appeal to RFID.

Among the many application sectors, the pharmaceutical supply chain, with millions of medicines moving around the world and needing to be traced at item level, represents a very interesting test-case. Furthermore, the growing counterfeiting problem raises a significant threat within the supply chain system. Moreover, several international institutions (e.g. Food and Drug Administration, European Medicines Agency, European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations) are encouraging the use of innovative solutions in healthcare and pharmaceutics, to improve patient safety and enhance the efficiency of the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Unfortunately, performance of passive UHF RFID systems depends on several parameters, which are strongly related to environment, design and setup choices. For example, it is well known that a supply chain is composed of several steps that have different characteristics in terms of traceability procedures (e.g., distance between reader antenna and tag antenna, speed of moving objects, quantity of tags to be read, etc.). In such scenarios, the choice of an RFID tag solution, able to guarantee high performance in each step of the supply chain and in any operating condition, is certainly a hard challenge.

Moreover, the presence of liquids and/or metal inside the drug boxes is another issue.

At the RFID Division of EML2, in cooperation with the IDA-Lab of the same University, a new kind of RFID tag has been designed, realized, tested and patented by taking into account the traceability scenario and the individuated requirements that a tag should own in order to overcome the known limits.

The performance of the tag has been evaluated and the obtained results demonstrate that, if the tag is designed considering the peculiarities of the specific tracing system, a successful read rate of 100% can be obtained, regardless of the supply chain step, the composition of the traced product, and the operating conditions.