07 September 2006 | Paul Snell
The reliance on technology to ensure security of medical supply chains will increase dramatically in the next 10 years.
According to research firm IDTechEx, the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in healthcare worldwide will be worth $2.1 billion (£1.1 billion) in 2016, compared with $90 million (£47 million) now.
Technology is becoming more popular with medical firms attempting to prevent breaches in supply chains (see News, 24 August). Pfizer, whose drugs have been targeted by counterfeiters, has recommended increasing the use of coding technology on packs to improve traceability.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry told SM it is in favour of technology being used for this purpose.
A spokesman said they were keeping an "open mind" about what type of technology to support, but currently favour bar codes. He said this was because it would be quicker for all points of the chain to use bar codes.
Members of the Global Healthcare User Group (HUG), including GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, last month agreed to actively promote GS1 as the standard for product ID in the healthcare supply chain.
GS1 standards are worldwide data standards for technology such as bar codes and RFID tags. If companies all use the same type of ID, drugs should be harder to counterfeit and easier to trace.
Last month NHS Connecting for Health announced it was looking for an NHS trust to pilot a blood-tracking system using either bar codes or RFID.
It hopes that by using technology to track blood supplies it will reduce the number of patients who are given the wrong blood type.