Asset Tagging Alternative: Medicine

Counterfeit drugs and fake medical equipment are on the rise. Patient healthcare is a growing risk and is costing European countries an estimated £1bn a year.

Fake drugs may have the correct ingredients but they could be the wrong dosage, or be missing active ingredients, or contain impurities, or even contain toxic chemicals. They could be wrongly fed into the supply chain thus ending up behind the counter of a pharmacy or they are sold directly over the internet to the end user at discounted prices. Medication isn't the only fraud; it was only a couple years ago there was the PIP breast implant scare. Breast implants are meant to be made of medical silicone, not industrial.

Where does labelling come into this?

Using barcodes, QR codes, or even RFID labels to tag medication will provide tracking from the factory to the patient every step of the way to ensure it doesn't get tampered with, lost or stolen. RFID is also a recommended solution on hospital equipment as more than £1.13m has been lost or stolen between 2009 and 2010 in Scotland alone. Using a system such as one you'd find in shops, it can trigger an alarm when an unauthorised item nears an exit door. Some RFID systems can work over a distance of 3m. The tags themselves will not be of any harm to other hospital equipment as they don't emit any radio frequencies on their own. As they are magnetic it might be worth keeping them away from MRI machines though. Tracking every item from point of manufacture will bring costs down dramatically. It will prevent counterfeit items, loss, theft, overbuying, and will recover budget control. This system doesn't have to be limited to hospitals either. It would be recommended for schools, shops, office and warehouses in any industry. There's already an legislation by the US' FDA that all food and drugs must be tracked in a way that both humans and machines can read its progress from where it's come from to where it's going; a system that many european countries are looking at copying, and with good reason!