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FDA To Pressure Drug Companies On RFID

Companies have been slow to implement technology to track and trace drug shipments, so the government may set a deadline.

The drug industry isn't moving very fast to use radio-frequency identification technology to combat drug counterfeiting. And the Food and Drug Administration is about to apply some pressure.

The Prescription Drug Marketing Act of 1987 requires implementation of a drug track-and-trace program. But until recently, there wasn't technology that would let the industry implement such a program. However, in 2004 the FDA said RFID appeared to be the answer and suggested it could be in place by 2007.

Since then, there have been a few high-profile RFID pilot projects, including putting RFID tags on bottles of Viagra and using the technology to track bottles of the painkiller OxyContin.

But it looks like the FDA doesn't consider that good enough. Agency officials have publicly expressed disappointment at the lack of progress, and the FDA's Counterfeit Drug Task Force is expected to issue a report this month on whether drugmakers should be required to put in place an RFID system. There are indications it could set a deadline for action.

RFID technology has matured quickly and the costs have dropped, so Big Pharma is running out of excuses.

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