Holes appear in case for pharma RFID

Two-dimensional barcodes are likely to be the unit-level identification winner over RFID when the California pedigree law rolls around about mid-decade. That's the thinking of Dirk Rodgers, a pharma supply chain IT consultant who co-chairs the GS1 EPCglobal Drug Pedigree Messaging work group.

The reason, of course, is economics, despite an enthusiasm hoped to trump numbers by the never-say-die radio-frequency identification proponents. Rodgers, writing in RxTrace, says the writing was on the wall six years ago.

He uses more logic than data in the graphs he presents to make his case, which he readily admits. But certain facts--like the absence of both a technology-specific regulatory mandate and Wal-Mart-like market mandate, as well as the dynamics of fee-for-service deals between drugmakers and wholesalers--bring solidity to his arguments.

"Most manufacturers will choose to comply with the California pedigree law by applying 2D barcodes only to their units," he writes, substantiating with lifecycle cost graphs. "If there is to be no mandate, would any public company choose to apply RFID to their products considering that cost difference? In my thinking, their stockholders won't allow it."

He does see an eventual role for RFID in the pharma industry at the package level.

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