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Pfizer Introduces Radio Frequency Identification Technology to Combat Counterfeiting, Protect Patient Health


Technology takes aim at criminals who are counterfeiting Viagra

NEW YORK, January 6 -- In its latest initiative to promote patient safety by combating pharmaceutical counterfeiting, Pfizer Inc has begun to ship its first product containing radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to its customers in the United States.

RFID technology is being added to all Viagra® (sildenafil citrate) sold in the U.S. to enable pharmacies and wholesalers to verify the unique electronic product code, or EPC, on Viagra packaging. Pfizer is the first pharmaceutical company to put in place a comprehensive program of this type focused on EPC authentication as a means of deterring counterfeiting.

Viagra was selected for the RFID project because it has been a major target for counterfeiters.

Pfizer has invested several million dollars to date in the technology, which discourages counterfeiting because it is both difficult and expensive to duplicate. RFID tags incorporate the EPC into each package, case and pallet of Viagra. Pharmacists and wholesalers use specially-designed electronic scanners that communicate the code over the internet to a secure Pfizer website.

“The primary goal for adding the technology is to enhance patient safety,” said Tom McPhillips, vice president of Pfizer’s U.S. Trade Group. “We want pharmacists who fill prescriptions for Pfizer medicines, and patients who use those medicines, to have increased confidence that they are receiving authentic product and not a potentially dangerous fake. We are creating additional barriers for criminals who might attempt to counterfeit our products.”

The company’s application of RFID is not yet capable of “tracking and tracing” medicines through the distribution system. “Track and trace” requires that all parts of the supply chain invest in compatible technology and agree to capture and share information about product movement. Pfizer will continue to explore the uses of this technology—including “track and trace”—during the coming year.

Pfizer’s application of RFID also does not allow for the collection of any patient information.

The company is working cooperatively with standards setting bodies, state governments, the FDA, industry groups and its customers to establish policies for the widespread application of RFID in the future. But, while the technology offers great promise as an anti-counterfeiting tool, it alone will not eliminate drug counterfeiting. Pfizer believes the problem must be addressed on many different fronts, including tightening state regulations for the licensing and distribution of pharmaceutical products, modifying business practices, increasing enforcement, and using technology effectively.

Pfizer anticipates that it will take several years before RFID is applied broadly throughout the pharmaceutical industry. Cost will be a significant consideration, as well as the readability and reliability of RFID tags. Standards must be developed to govern technology and data exchange. And RFID also will require the pharmaceutical distribution industry to change the way it does business.

For additional information about Pfizer’s anti-counterfeiting initiatives, or to learn more about the company’s RFID program, please see


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