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:
In 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)→
One of the most intense questions about any serialization mandate is whether or not manufacturers would be required to pass “aggregation data” to their customers. “Aggregation data” is the serial number-based packaging hierarchy of the shipment. That is, a list of the package-level serial numbers that are contained in each serialized bundle, and then which bundles are contained within which serialized cases and then which cases are contained on which serialized pallet, etc.
The wide-scale use of “inference” in the pharmaceutical supply chain is essential to the successful operation of a track & track or ePedigree system. Companies cannot be expected to open every case they plan to ship, or that they receive, so that they can figure out exactly which package-level serial numbers are involved. The use of the serial number packaging hierarchy, or, “Aggregation information”, to “infer” which packages are being shipped or received is the only way to maintain a level of supply chain efficiency that is close to pre-serialization levels. On the other hand, regulator acceptance of the use of inference in the supply chain has the potential to complicate their investigation of criminals.
In recognition of its importance in maintaining efficiencies, the California legislature instructed the Board of Pharmacy to draw up rules that would allow companies to optionally make use of it (see my essay “Inference in the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain” for the exact text of the inference provisions of the California Business and Professions Code). It leaves the important question about who Continue reading How Should Inference Work?→
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→
In an essay published in April, I explained my theory that “RFID is DEAD…at Unit-level in Pharma”, which, if true, would mean that most drugs in the U.S. supply chain would be serialized by manufacturers with 2D barcodes by 2015 for California. In my last essay, “Inference in the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain”, I carried that theory one step further by showing how the widespread reliance on 2D barcodes to serialize at the unit level would lead directly to the widespread use of the practice of inference in the supply chain. This would be out of necessity since the unit-level serial numbers would not be readable without opening their containers, something that can’t happen because it is so inefficient that it would cripple the supply chain. So let me say it this way, the widespread use of 2D barcodes for unit-level serialization will necessitate the widespread reliance on inference. The former leads to the latter just like excessive sunshine leads to sunburn.
But the projections of widespread reliance on inference lead directly to a new concern. Let me explain. Successful use of inference for determining the contents of cases is totally dependent on the accuracy of the aggregation information established and provided by the manufacturer, or whoever packed them. If a packer uses a casepacking process that is incapable of yielding highly accurate aggregation information, inference will not work well.
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.