Verizon Enterprise Solutions, a unit of the Verizon telecommunications empire, is partnering with rfXcel, one of the longtime IT shops that has been developing traceability software for managing pharmaceutical distribution. Although rfXcel’s and Verizon’s news release about the partnership emphasizes preventing counterfeits from entering the pharma supply chain (which it should be able to do), the real action is simpler: compliance with the 2013 Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), which the pharma industry is now going through the steps of complying with.
The Verizon-rfXcel pairing is unusual (not many of the other players in pharma traceability have tied themselves to a telecom provider) but has a logic: the full implementation of DSCSA, which requires storing ID codes for billions of individual pharma packages, and billions more “events” that describe where a package is in the supply chain, has heavy data-storage and –access burdens. Again, once DSCSA is fully functioning, a drug package purchaser (who, eventually, could be individual consumers) is supposed to be able to verify the authenticity and source of that drug package by accessing these records.
Most pharma activity currently is focused on the ID-code part of DSCSA: by November 2017, all pharma packages are supposed to have individualized item codes, necessitating revamping existing packaging lines. In later years—which farsighted pharma companies and wholesalers are already planning for—the communications networks for accessing the distribution information are to be in place; but FDA is still dithering on how to make that work. European businesses, following the mandates of the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) of the European Union, will mostly be working with national or regional data depositories that centralize the data access function.
For its part, Verizon is building up an Internet of Things (IoT) offering, called ThingSpace and including an Intelligent Track and Trace system, and notes that “Beyond healthcare, Intelligent Track and Trace technology can be applied to the serialization of virtually any asset, allowing any business with an asset to track to benefit.”