30 December 2007

Big Brother is watching your Viagra

Pfizer, producer of Viagra, and Purdue Pharma, the privately-held producer of OxyContin, have launched pilot programs tagging these drugs with Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, technology. Other drug companies are expected to make the switch as well.

"All Viagra that we're producing right now is being tagged with RFID tags," said Pfizer spokeswoman Peggy Staver. "By the end of the first quarter [2006,] I expect all the untagged inventory will have worked its way through the system."

With RFID, drugs in the U.S. can be traced from the manufacturer to the supplier and even to the customer, with the intent of weeding out counterfeits and tracking stolen shipments.

Microchips are installed in drug-bearing pallets so shipments can be traced across the country. In some cases, even the individual bottles are tagged. Bottle-tagging is more expensive, but it means that individual patients, or the thieves who stole their bottles, can be tracked.

There's no shortage of companies involved in the RFID business. Some of the larger players include IBM and Intel Corp, which focus on the connection between transmitters and receivers, and Symbol Technologies and privately-held Alien Technology, which produce the hardware.

There's nothing new about RFID, reportedly used in espionage since the 1940s, and it's already made its way into the retail industry to scrutinize the spending habits of consumers or manage inventory, depending on who you ask. In 2005, retail giant Wal-Mart started mandating RFID-tagging for its top 100 vendors."

Full story

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Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders.

An RFID tag is an object that can be applied to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification using radiowaves. Some tags can be read from several meters away and beyond the line of sight of the reader.

OxyContin
OxyContin is a time release formulation of the narcotic analgesic oxycodone.
An opium based drug or any drug with effects similar to those produced by opium or opium derivatives.

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