I’ve written before about the importance of supply chain standards and how pedigree standards can be categorized as “communications standards”. I drew the analogy of the importance of standards in making cell phones work together. Because U.S. cell phone companies agreed to make use of certain standards, you are able to call your friends who chose to buy service from Sprint, when you have chosen to buy your service from Verizon, or any of a number of other U.S. carriers. Without those standards and the agreement of each company to use them, you would only be able to call people who happened to sign up with the same phone company that you did.
I won’t reproduce the whole article here but its contents are just as pertinent today as they were two years ago when it was published in Pharmaceutical Commerce magazine. That article stressed the importance of the GS1 Drug Pedigree Messaging Standard (DPMS, a.k.a. the GS1 Pedigree Ratified Standard), but any approach selected by an individual company to address pedigree legislation has to consider interoperability with whatever approach their trading partners choose. Interoperability is the goal of standards but right now there are two standards-based approaches to pedigree out there and they are not currently interoperable. That’s a problem for everyone, because the supply chain is so interconnected and diverse at the same time.
The two standards are DPMS and EPCIS–both from GS1. The history of these two standards and the differentiating characteristics of each one is too complex to cover in a single post so I’ll just provide an introduction here. I’ll continue the discussion in later posts, although I don’t plan to make the whole thing contiguous because there are other topics that I also want to cover over the same timeframe.
EPCIS (Electronic Product Code Information Services) is a GS1 standard that defines a set of interfaces for the purpose of capturing and querying serial number “visibility” data. “Visibility” data is meant to be observations and transactions that are based on observations of serial numbers that are attached to items and logistical containers of products within supply chains. I still haven’t found an easy-to-understand way to explain it, but I think those two sentences describe it fairly concisely and accurately. If you have a better way to explain it, please post a comment below.
Notice that the description doesn’t say anything about pedigree or regulatory compliance. EPCIS is a standard, but it’s a general purpose IT thing that you have to apply a specific way in order to make it work as a pedigree system. The standard is designed to be very flexible and for serialized product, it could be quite powerful if used right. There are a couple of problems for those who want to use it as a pedigree system, however.
- There is currently no standard that describes exactly how to apply it as a drug pedigree system that would ensure interoperability across the supply chain;
- There is the general tendency to talk about ways to turn EPCIS into a pedigree system, but I haven’t heard one yet that is likely to comply with existing pedigree laws.
I’ll cover those issues in more detail in later posts.
DPMS (Drug Pedigree Messaging Standard) is a GS1 standard that was specifically created to assist the pharmaceutical supply chain with creating an interoperable system to trace drugs in a way that can comply with existing pedigree laws. That includes Florida, California, the PDMA and all of the other states that currently have pedigree laws. The problem is, it doesn’t do much to assist companies with all of the many problems they face dealing with serial numbers on items. DPMS can take serial numbers and use them to trace those items, but there are a lot of other, non-compliance issues that must be dealt with first.
So there are problems with both standards. Perhaps an obvious solution is one that I, and others, proposed last year to combine EPCIS and DPMS to create a system that benefits from the best of both standards.
As you might imagine, there is a lot more I could discuss on this topic in later posts. But I’m going to try to stay out of the details and talk more about implications of each approach. Stay tuned…
One thought on “The Importance of Standards”
Good post. You mention that you haven't seen a good description of EPCIS. I recommend the Wikipedia entry for anyone interested in the standard. You can find the entry here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/epcis
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