Will the FDA Accept RFID for Drug Identification?

It has been almost two years since I published “RFID is DEAD…at Unit-Level in Pharma” and we are approaching a pivotal decision by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that will determine whether or not RFID will be acceptable for identifying drugs in the U.S. supply chain.  Last Thursday was the scheduled final closing of the recent request for comment issued by the FDA formally known as “Bar Code Technologies for Drugs and Biological Products; Retrospective Review Under Executive Order 13563; Request for Comments, 76 Fed. Reg. 66,235” (Oct. 26, 2011) [Docket No. FDA-2011-N-0719].

The closing of this request for comment (RFC) means that it is now time for the FDA to figure out what they might do with the original questions.  That is, should they change the requirement for all packages of prescription drugs and many over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in the U.S. to contain the National Drug Code (NDC) encoded into a linear barcode?  And if so, what should they replace it with?  The RFC doesn’t give any hints about how far they might go and simply asks a series of questions of the industry and interested parties, letting the respondents propose whatever they think the agency should do.

I have spent my Sunday afternoon reading (OK, in some instances, skimming) through all of the responses.  They are available for anyone to read (or skim) at http://www.regulations.gov (search for FDA-2011-N-0719).  Considering that the input received from this RFC may influence the FDA’s decision about what to replace the linear barcode requirement with, I think Continue reading Will the FDA Accept RFID for Drug Identification?

How Counterfeit Avastin Penetrated the U.S. Supply Chain

Counterfeit Avastin

The internet lit up last week when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted an announcement that they are aware of counterfeit Avastin in the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain (see “Counterfeit Version of Avastin in U.S. Distribution” on the FDA website and Genentech’s announcement).

I found out about it when I received notice of Dr. Adam Fein’s (PhD) excellent blog posting “Greedy Physicians Invite Fake Avastin Into the Supply Chain” on his DrugChannels.net blog, but multiple national news agencies picked the story up and many articles were written about it.  Most simply reflected the contents in the FDA’s announcement.

But at least one news source seemed to do some additional investigating.  Bill Berkrot and John Acher of Reuters published the excellent article “Fake Avastin’s path to U.S. traced to Egypt” on Thursday.  In the article they provide a little more background on the path the drugs allegedly took before apparently arriving on the shelves of U.S. physicians and potentially in the bodies of unsuspecting U.S. patients.

And Pharmaceutical Commerce Online reports that Avastin isn’t the only incident of recent counterfeit injectable cancer drugs making it into the U.S. market that the FDA is currently investigating.


Now keep in mind, this is only investigative journalism so far, and while the information source listed in the Reuters article is the Danish Medicines Agency, criminal investigators may already know more than this and in the end, some or all of the contents of the Reuters article may eventually be found to be untrue.  Whether ultimately true or not Continue reading How Counterfeit Avastin Penetrated the U.S. Supply Chain

Why NOW Is The Time To Move Away From Linear Barcodes

Linear barcodes have served us well for almost half a century, but NOW is the time to move on to something else in the global pharmaceutical supply chain.  I think most people already agree with that but I’m not sure everyone fully appreciates exactly why that is.  It’s important to fully understand the reason why so that your resolution to move away from linear barcodes is strong and you won’t drag your feet or look back.  So let me show you.


No matter what you might think is going to happen to ePedigree or track & trace regulations going forward, more and more governments around the world are concluding that legitimate pharmaceuticals should come with unique identifiers—serial numbers—attached to them by the manufacturers and repackagers.

Serialization is upon us and I believe that in 10 years the ongoing benefits from it around the globe will significantly exceed the ongoing costs.  Whether you agree to the benefits or not you certainly must accede to the fact that Continue reading Why NOW Is The Time To Move Away From Linear Barcodes

Repackaging Drugs Under A Serialization Regulation

Important Notice To Readers of This Essay On November 27, 2013, President Barack Obama signed the Drug Quality and Security Act of 2013 into law. That act has many provisions, but one is to pre-empt all existing and future state serialization and pedigree laws like those that previously existed in California and Florida. Some or all of the information contained in this essay is about some aspect of one or more of those state laws and so that information is now obsolete. It is left here only for historical purposes for those wishing to understand those old laws and the industry’s response to them.The California ePedigree law goes into effect for manufacturers in 2015/2016.  In mid-2016 distributors and repackagers will need to comply.  The California pedigree law includes the need for manufacturers and repackagers to serialize drugs at the smallest level of distribution to pharmacies.  That’s just one of the requirements, they also need to make reference to those serial numbers in the ePedigrees that they create (manufacturers) or update (repackagers, distributors and pharmacies).  (For more on the full pedigree regulation see my essays “The California Pedigree Law” and “California Pedigree Law:  Historic Change To Commerce”).  The implications of this to repackagers are unique.  Let’s explore why. Continue reading Repackaging Drugs Under A Serialization Regulation