Sunday, October 6, 2013

From RFID Nanotags to Silica Microtags

After reading "Nano-Based RFID Tags Could Replace Barcodes" and seeing that the article was written three years ago, I was anxious to see how this innovation had progressed. Surprisingly, I was unable to find many new applications of this technology. However, I did find an innovative spin-off, which I believe will change supply chains in the future.

TruTag is a company devoted to creating brand authentication and protection to various industries. An article I found, described their newest venture into the pharma industry. Edible Silica Microtags: Eating Away at Counterfeit Drugs,  which describes how pharma manufacturers are using this technology to root out counterfeited drugs. According to the article, TruTag's process uses an encoding process that relies on silicon wafers. These wafers are converted into nano-porous micro-particles of silicon dioxide. Silicon dioxide is "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) by the FDA, thus allowing the dioxide to be added to the drug's outer coating mix. This allows each individual drug/pill/or tablet to be coded with information regarding dosage type, manufacturing plant, lot number, and an individual ID. Parties who are concerned with the authenticity of the drugs can read the microtags using spectrometer technology, which is available from TruTags.

The article only connected this process to fighting the problem of counterfeiting  HIV and malaria medications in Africa and Southeast Asia. However, I believe this process can go much further. Recently in class, we talked about reverse supply chains and how they operate when returns are made to a store (i.e. TV returns after the Superbowl). In my opinion, this technology could be applied to a similar  incidence, drug recalls. If a batch of drugs is contaminated and deemed defective, pharmacies or individuals could easily check to see if their medications were affected.

This brings me to a policy/health related question. Do you think that individuals and companies will find this value added/quality assurance technique as reassuring? Or do you believe that people will be hesitant to adopt this practice to drugs due to health concerns and the vague definition that comes with GRAS certification?



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