Packaging veteran urges including patient in drug pedigree chain

Drug tracking systems need to reach all the way to the patient, and patients need to be sold their drugs in packaging supplied by the manufacturer. That's "true" serialization, according to packaging veteran Walter Berghahn, executive director for the Healthcare Compliance Packaging Council.

Berghahn, also co-owner of medication-adherence service provider SmartRmeds for Life, says in Healthcare Packaging that tracking meds to the drugtaker is a required element in a supply chain that can truly be described as safe.

Most concepts for drug serialization in the developed world are systems that begin with the ingredient supplier or drug manufacturer and track products through several trading partners, terminating at the pharmacy or hospital. By contrast, in counterfeit-plagued developing nations, the focus is on allowing patients to verify drug authenticity, often through text messaging.

Berghahn says most pedigree concepts for the U.S. have a big Achilles' heel: the practice of pharmacists opening drug containers and transferring their contents into vials. "There goes the pedigree, the serialized ID, and the...stability-tested container," he writes.

It's time to ditch this "antiquated practice of repackaging," he continues in the article. The patient should get the container filled by the drugmaker, as well as the means to verify the product's authenticity.

Another reason to extend supply chain tracking to the patient is better adherence to treatment regimens. "That serialized container can serve as a conduit from patient to care provider to physician, and to the pharmacist," he writes, noting that patient adherence data can also be useful to doctors in setting follow-on treatment plans.

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