Fundamental Law of Commerce

Over the last few years I have been kicking around an idea that helps identify an important characteristic that will be necessary in any successful supply chain pedigree or track and trace technology/regulation. I can sum it up as follows:

When regulations mandate that a product’s value is determined by the ability to show, at any time, specific information about the product’s history, then the buyer of that product must receive all of the necessary information from the seller at the same time the product is received.

Take, for instance, a secondary wholesaler in Florida today. Florida requires a secondary wholesaler to be able to show an inspector a complete pedigree for any prescription drug in their possession. If the wholesaler cannot show the proper pedigree, then the product cannot be sold in Florida. The value of the item is reduced, perhaps to zero. If this drug-without-a-pedigree can legally be shipped to sites or customers outside of Florida the reduction in value is equal to the cost of the extra shipment, extra handling and perhaps a temporary out-of-stock situation until the unexpected loss can be backfilled (and possibly a fine).

Now imagine what would happen if there were no other place to legally ship drugs whose pedigree information is unavailable when called upon. The value of the drugs would certainly be zero, or worse. That’s a risk that can be avoided by ensuring that all of the information necessary for the pedigree is in the possession of the secondary wholesaler at the time they purchase the drug.

What would cause the information to not be available? Some technical approaches to maintaining pedigree information under discussion within the industry right now might result in something I call a “distributed” pedigree. That is, one that is stored across multiple organizations; the previous owners of the drug. When it is necessary to show a complete pedigree–to an inspector, a law enforcement organization, or just to a buyer–these other organization must be called upon to provide their part of the pedigree. The occasion that leads to the need to show a complete pedigree will probably occur somewhat unexpectedly (especially in the instance of a regulatory inspection or a law enforcement action). If one or more of the organizations holding part of the pedigree information are temporarily or permanently unable to provide their part of the pedigree, the product cannot be sold and thus has lost all of its value.

The real problem with a distributed pedigree occurs when the supply chain extends beyond just two trading partners. For example, the third owner of a drug in the supply chain probably doesn’t have any business relationship with the manufacturer (the first owner). That’s why they bought the product from the second owner. There is probably no contract between the current owner of the drug and the previous owners (except the most recent seller) so there is no way to ensure that these earlier owners will provide their necessary components to the pedigree when it is called for.

The solution is to make sure that all of the necessary data for the pedigree is always supplied by the seller at the time of purchase. That way, if any of the earlier owners have technical (or other) difficulties that prevent them from being able to serve up data, it won’t affect the value of the drugs that are downstream in the supply chain. In short, a “distributed” pedigree won’t work.

I believe this concept is a corollary to the fundamental law of commerce known as “Buyer Beware”. Transmitting a full pedigree at the time of the sales transaction is one way of arming the buyer with sufficient information so they can beware.

Welcome to rxTrace

My intent for this blog is to publish my personal ideas and opinions regarding technology issues related to regulatory compliance within the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain. I hope to cover topics like GS1 Standards, pedigree, track and trace, and issues surrounding those things, using publicly available information. This blog contains my own ideas and opinions and not those of my current or former employers and so I am solely responsible for them.

In general, the more ideas presented for consideration, the better. Most ideas will end up in the scrap heap. When I present ideas here and elsewhere, I try not to worry whether or not they might end up being rejected, because sometimes an idea that sounds bad initially can turn out to be the most innovative. Sitting on it for fear that it will be rejected would limit the chances of discovering the best idea.

All ideas benefit from collaboration with other people where they can be refined into better ideas. I hope my readers will respond often with refinements and counter-ideas. Please don’t hesitate to respond.

Thanks for reading. I hope this blog remains interesting to you.

DISCLAIMER: RxTrace contains some of the personal thoughts, ideas and opinions of Dirk Rodgers. The material contained in RxTrace is not legal advice. Dirk Rodgers is not a lawyer.
The reader must make their own decisions about the accuracy of the opinions expressed in RxTrace. Readers are encouraged to consult their own legal counsel
and trading partners before taking any actions based on information found in RxTrace. RxTrace is not a vehicle for communicating
the positions of any company, organization or individual other than Dirk Rodgers.

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