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BLED Panel: Product Tampering ePrevention

Participation in 2008 BLED Panel

University College Dublin and Product Traceability

UCD has a growing expertise in product traceability technology and systems research established in the schools of Agriculture/Vet/Food Science. Competency has been developed in Radio-Frequency IDentification (RFID) for meat traceability and for assisting in overcoming the vulnerability of food and feed chains to dangerous agents and substances.

More recently the involvement of the UCD School of Business in the ITAIDE Drug LivingLab presents a new opportunity to focus on the manufacturing, supply and distribution of drugs. Our industry partner SAP is developing technical building blocks for the purpose of strengthening supply chain security, reducing risk exposure while enhancing product tracking and authentication processes. SAP's approach is AutoID technology neutral (i.e. supports multiple standards, e.g. product serialisation or numbering, CDP digital copy detection pattern, RFID and various bar codes).

Promising Measures Aiding Provenance, Confidence and Responsibility

Integration through an open standards based information infrastructures designed to record and check product information (batch/lot/serial numbers, recipes/ingredients/allergy information), usage recommendations, warnings, concentration dosage, best before/use by, etc; all the identifying and informative material currently available on labels.

Additional inventory movement information can be used to establish the product's provenance; its handling history, storage history (perhaps cold chain temperature trace data), movement events, package breakdown and repacking events.

But even more radically, certain entities may be able to build up secondary and tertiary information further up the supply/manufacture chain. Useful for product recall events, epidemiological analysis, a sort of Googleable electronic pedigree.

Personal Position on Future Trends

My thinking is that no one AutoID technology addresses all requirements. Each technology family has specific fit for purpose application.

Challenges Ahead

  1. While we might argue that many of the technical building blocks are in place to secure the Drug supply chain, the pharmaceutical sector has yet to produce a co-ordinated response to the stringent compliance issues and the threat posed by counterfeit drugs. Can a single player solve the problem?
  2. Does parallel trade create a peculiarly European problem? It has been said that industry believes supply chain security is compromised by allowing parallel imports within the EU. But disallowing parallel trade is against the principles of the EU common market. The European common market guarantees the principle of an open internal market and therefore fundamentally supports the possibility of parallel imports within the EU.
  3. Is market-wide, inter-organisational co-ordination possible? Bearing in mind the (very) large number of stakeholders (e.g. manufacturers, suppliers, governments and regulatory agencies, wholesalers, distributors, clinicians, pharmacists: community and hospital, patients and patient groups).

About the Author

Allen Higgins has been involved for many years in commercial software development ranging from mass market applications to standards based enterprise development services and tools. He has worked in Havok (Telekinesys Research), Sepro Telecom, Iona Technologies, Symantec and Logotron. Currently a research associate at University College Dublin, Ireland, attached to ITAIDE, the EU 6th framework integrated project. Supports the ITAIDE work package focusing on Interorganisational Network Innovation and Network Collaboration. This approach takes the social/organisational/social perspective of agents involved in developing, implementing, maintaining and using interorganisational information systems. Is a doctoral candidate at the University of Warwick, UK, under the supervision of Joe Nandhakumar.