Secure Symbology Introduces RFID Alternative

Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management checking into serialized bar coding solutions

New York City — January 3, 2004 — The Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management (CAPDM) said it has expanded its investigation of automated track-and-trace technologies beyond radio frequency identification (RFID) after meeting with Secure Symbology Inc. (SSI), a provider of serialized bar coding solutions for supply chain protection.

In particular, the CAPDM's Automated Product Tracking Committee learned more about the application of SSI's Electronic Sequence Code (ESC) serialized bar coding system in the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Ken Mulhall, senior vice president of Industry Relations for CAPDM, commented that the committee found SSI's solution to be very practical. What we like about it is that it is an expansion of the existing bar coding solution with which Canadian pharmacy supply chain members are already familiar and comfortable, he said. The system's ability to relay actual information to consumers, such as health alerts, is an important part of the value proposition.

CAPDM is the majority voice for the pharmacy distribution industry in Canada and is focused on pharmacy supply chain management.

We are currently searching for solutions for automated product tracking and are in the process of becoming educated about RFID, Mulhall continued. After meeting with Secure Symbology, it became clear that there are viable alternatives and, as a result, we changed the name of the operating group, which previously had been called the RFID Committee, to allow for a broader range of possibilities.

RFID is a long-term automated solution allowing all members of the supply chain to track and trace individual products at every point of distribution, from manufacturer to end-user. Utilizing transmitters embedded in product packaging, RFID is envisioned as the answer to counterfeiting and product diversion, but is still years away from full deployment. U.S. retailers like Wal-Mart and government entities such as the Department of Defense mandated that their suppliers adopt RFID technology by the beginning of 2005.

SSI said ESC is a machine-readable bar coding system that prints a unique serial number on every pharmaceutical product, along with lot number, expiration date and NDC, providing anti-counterfeiting protection and track-and-traceability at any point in the product lifecycle.

Unlike RFID, which is currently being tested at the case and pallet levels by Wal-Mart and the U.S. Department of Defense, SSI claimed that ESC can deliver an electronic pedigree at any packaging level, from container to individual product unit.

In addition, the system uses globally recognized ISO standard symbologies so that it is compatible with existing global numbering systems and uses off-the-shelf scanners, which require no capital investment by distributors or retailers.

The ESC is currently being tested in the pharmaceutical industry by one of the big three U.S. pharmaceutical distributors. According to Mulhall, CAPDM will be closely following the results of this test.

SSI's system is appealing as an inexpensive alternative to RFID. We need to be better educated so we can make the right decision, he said.