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GSK To Utilize RFID Technology To Combat Drug Counterfeiting, Diversion

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is using emerging radio frequency identification (RFID) technology as part of a pilot program to crack down on drug counterfeiting and to protect consumers.

GSK said Wednesday that bottles of its HIV drug Trizivir would be tagged with RFID devices.

"This is one more step toward safeguarding Americans' supply of medicine," said Mark Shaefer, vice president of the HIV and InfectiousDiseaseMedicineDevelopmentCenterat GSK, in a statement. "The hope is that RFID tags can tighten the supply chain even further to help assure patients that the medicine they buy is indeed the medicine their doctor has prescribed."

The pharmaceutical firm worked with IBM in developing the pilot program.

GSK announced in November 2004 that it would launch a pilot program utilizing RFID technology with 18 months.

According to GSK, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has asked pharmaceutical companies to develop standards for uses of RFID.

GSK said it chose Trizivir for the project because it is one of 32 drugs listed as most susceptible to counterfeiting and diversion based on a list compiled by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. The pharmacy board has said the 32 drugs represent more than 10 percent of perscription drug revenues.

The Baltimore Sun, citing information from the FDA, reported earlier this month that some 1 percent of prescription drugs in the United States are counterfeit. "That means about 35 million prescriptions every year are filled with something other than the prescribed drug," The Sun reported.

RFID technology involves tags made of silicon chips and a miniature antenna. The chips store a unique product code for each bottle. Scanners are used to authenticate the drugs as they move through the supply chain. Tagged bottles will start appearing in mid-April, GSK said.

No patient data will be collected, GSK said.

GSK already utilizes RFID technology to track pallets of products.