Category Archives: Aggregation

Aggregation: The Achilles’ Heel of Pharma Supply Chain Operation Under A Serialization Regulation

View of a layer of drug cartons inside a case. Photo courtesy of Omega Design. Click image to enlarge.

Neither the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) in the United States, nor the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) in the European Union explicitly mandates the capture or use of aggregation data (see “Aggregation –> Chargeback Accuracy –> ROI” and “EU FMD: Aggregation Is Not Mandated, But It Will Be Necessary“).   In this instance, “aggregation data” is data that documents the serialized packaging containment hierarchy of drug products—also known as “parent-child relationships”.  It is well established that companies are not required by law to capture it, but for the smooth operation of pharma supply chains under a serialization, tracing and/or verification regulation, high quality aggregation data will be necessary.  But there are warning signs that a significant percentage of drug manufacturers are not going to meet that bar by the deadlines. Continue reading Aggregation: The Achilles’ Heel of Pharma Supply Chain Operation Under A Serialization Regulation

Aggregation –> Chargeback Accuracy –> ROI

Last week I attended my favorite annual conference on pharma serialization and tracing in the U.S.:  The Healthcare Distribution Management Association’s (HDMA) Traceability Seminar.  They call it a “seminar” because the subject of the sessions are generally the same every year, but it is better than any other third-party conference, primarily because the right people attend it:  lots of people from drug manufacturers, wholesale distributors and some dispensers.  With this ideal spectrum of attendees, it is very easy to get your questions answered, in the hallway between sessions if not in the sessions themselves.

Of course, every year the folks from the FDA who are directly responsible for writing regulations related to the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) provide Continue reading Aggregation –> Chargeback Accuracy –> ROI

Wholesaler Confusion Over DSCSA Aggregation Explained

iStock_000028920134XSmallWhile listening to a monthly Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) call hosted by one of the Big-3 wholesale distributors I heard a comment that snapped me out of my conference call-induced stupor.  Unfortunately I was in a location where I could not take notes so I don’t remember the exact comments that were made, but I remember what it was that brought me back to full consciousness.

The comment made me realize in a jolt why the Big-3—or at least the one running this monthly call—may be unwilling to give up on their claims that they will need aggregation data to accompany shipments of prescription drugs from manufacturers as early as November 2019.  It may have to do with a mis-interpretation of their handling of saleable returned product within the DSCSA.  Let me explain. Continue reading Wholesaler Confusion Over DSCSA Aggregation Explained

When Will The DSCSA Ever Require Investments In Aggregation?

Packaging Hierarchy.  Drawing by Omega Design
Packaging Hierarchy. Drawing by Omega Design

I have been outspoken on the question of whether or not the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) requires companies in the supply chain to provide their customers with serial number-based aggregation data prior to 2023.  In my view, it does not, but others disagree, saying that there are requirements in the law that lead to the need for aggregation data during that time.  I do not agree with that either.  If you would like to review those arguments and find out exactly what “aggregation data” is, here is a list of RxTrace essays you should read:

Date Published Title/link
March 26th, 2012 Pharma Aggregation: How Companies Are Achieving Perfection Today
November 22nd, 2013 DQSA: Will U.S. Pharma Distributors Mandate Aggregation Data In Phase 1?
February 10th, 2014 Does The DQSA Require Manufacturers To Provide Aggregation Data? Survey Says…
June 9th, 2014 The Aggregation Hoax and PIA

BUT WHAT ABOUT AFTER 2023?

The DSCSA requires the FDA to conduct at least 5 topical public meetings between now and Continue reading When Will The DSCSA Ever Require Investments In Aggregation?

Product Identifier Authentication (PIA)

iStock_000015985566SmallerIn my last essay I touched on the use of Product Identifier Authentication, or PIA, as an alternative to the collection and distribution of aggregation data to allow wholesale distributors and repackagers to meet the verification requirements of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA).  Starting in November of 2018 for repackagers and in November of 2019 for wholesalers, the DSCSA will require these companies to verify that the standardized numerical identifier (SNI)—commonly referred to as “the serial number”—corresponds with one that the manufacturer originally applied to drugs that are found to be suspect, and for any returned drug that will be resold.

As I pointed out in my previous essay (see “The Aggregation Hoax and PIA”), manufacturers and repackagers may be able to choose to pass on aggregation information that would allow wholesale distributors to meet their requirements, or they might choose to offer a PIA service that would allow these companies to check the authenticity of one or more SNIs via a web service. Continue reading Product Identifier Authentication (PIA)

The Aggregation Hoax and PIA

????????Pharmaceutical manufacturers should be aware that there is a lot of uninformed misinformation going around out there lately about the need for them to supply aggregation data to their trading partners to meet the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) (for more on aggregation, see “Pharma Aggregation: How Companies Are Achieving Perfection Today”, “DQSA: Will U.S. Pharma Distributors Mandate Aggregation Data In Phase 1?”, and “Does The DQSA Require Manufacturers To Provide Aggregation Data? Survey Says…”).  In my view, prior to 2023 you can collect aggregation data if you want to, but don’t let anyone tell you that the DSCSA requires you to.  It doesn’t.  And I also encourage you to be skeptical of any claims that wholesale distributors will not accept your product anytime soon unless you provide them with aggregation data.  Feel free to Continue reading The Aggregation Hoax and PIA

Pharma Aggregation: How Companies Are Achieving Perfection Today

Bottle ID photo courtesy of Optel Vision

One of the biggest challenges for companies in the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain when the California pedigree law becomes operational after December 31, 2014 will be the need to maximize the efficiency of dealing with serial numbers on each drug package.  One way to do that is to maximize the use of “inference” where the case serial number is read and the unit package-level serial numbers are “inferred” from the unit-to-case aggregation information supplied by the upstream trading partner (See my essays “Inference in the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain” and “Will The Pharma Supply Chain Be Able To Use Inference? Maybe Not!”).

But the problem with the use of inference is that you need to be able to rely on the accuracy of the aggregation information that your supplier provides to you.  There is an element of trust in that—not just that you trust your supplier to be truthful with you but that you trust that your supplier’s case packing processes and systems will always accurately capture and document the unit-to-case hierarchy—or “aggregation”.  You must be able to trust that the aggregation information your supplier provides to you will be 100% accurate.  That’s a lot of trust. Continue reading Pharma Aggregation: How Companies Are Achieving Perfection Today