With the rise of the fourth industrial revolution—Industry 4.0—technology has become an inextricable aspect of business operations in most sectors. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) has become ubiquitous across a wide range of industries. Its emergence in the pharmaceutical industry is mainly attributed to the high importance of safety and security of business operations. With growing consumer awareness about the toxic counterfeit products pushed in the market, the technology is likely to discern exponential growth in the industry.

Being one of the most supervised and sensitive product groups, pharmaceuticals are subjected to numerous safety norms, and manufacturers have to ensure the drug quality and adhere to stringent regulations. In addition, increasing risks from substandard and falsified drugs are creating a need for efficient anti-counterfeiting solutions in the pharmaceutical industry. This has boosted the adoption of RFID in combination with the electronic product code (EPC) in the industry.

Securing Supply Chain and Logistics in Pharmaceutical Industry with RFID Readers

The quality of medical products is an indispensable parameter of product safety in the pharmaceutical industry. Stringent regulatory frameworks are triggering the adoption of RFID readers in its supply chain operations to ensure adherence to accreditation requirements set by governing bodies.

In 2018, the deployment of RFID tags, readers, and other devices in the pharmaceutical market reached a valuation of US$ 950 million. By 2019, it is likely to cross the US$ 1 billion mark, and RFID readers and tags will account for more than three-fourth share in the number of RFID deployments in the pharmaceutical industry.

Though the technology is not new to the industry, RFID readers are becoming more efficient and potentially life-saving, when used for monitoring drug quality and product movement. The end-user inclination towards tech-based solutions to improve the security in pharmaceutical warehousing, as well as productivity and efficiency of their business logistics, will continue to augur well for vendors and RFID companies in the pharmaceutical industry.

In addition, the need for safe transportation and storage of these products will further be amplified with the growing trend of personalized medicine and treatments. By virtue of next-generation RFID tags and readers, drug manufacturers and wholesalers are implementing an efficient labeling system to reduce medical errors and improve safety of personalized pharmaceutical products.

Bright Future for RFID in Hospitals: Is There Any?

With the convergence of next-generation technologies and the healthcare industry, a mounting number of players are amassing to adopt RFID technology. Being a great microcosm of the industry, hospitals and clinics are transforming their supply chain model with the adoption of new tech-based solutions. In addition, regulatory requirements such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), and cybersecurity vulnerabilities have been boosting the RFID adoption in hospitals.

Access control is becoming a critical aspect of the supply chain in hospitals with increasing concerns about patient security and privacy, and medical personnel are preferring RFID readers or tags over password-based security systems. To meet the changing need vis-à-vis access control and other security requirements in hospitals and clinics, a variety of technologies are being introduced in this landscape. Market players are focusing on offering RFID devices and systems that are inexpensive and the can be integrated with other technologies to compete with other reader technologies incorporated in hospitals and clinics.

Hospitals are becoming an integral part of a complex and interconnected healthcare industry, and this will create new growth opportunities for RFID technology providers and vendors in the coming years. In addition, the smart labeling trend is poised to grow stronger and this will further bolster the role of RFID technology in the industry. The value-based and tech-driven business model of the healthcare industry will continue to boost the adoption of RFID for medical labeling in hospitals, in a bid to reduce medical errors and improve patient outcomes.

Near-field Communication (NFC): Is the Pharmaceutical Industry Ready to Take a Step Ahead?

As the pharmaceutical industry is getting its second wind from increasing growth of the healthcare industry, especially in Asia Pacific, manufacturers are pulling out all the stops to strengthen their business operations to fight counterfeiting. RFID currently offers the most efficient and popular technology incorporated for combating counterfeit products. However, the alarming rise in deaths caused due to toxic, Substandard and falsified medical products is triggering the hunt for more efficient technologies for drug tracing and quality market.

Manufacturers are on the lookout for a more reliable and secure way than RFID for manufacturing control in the pharmaceutical industry, as well as for product authentication, and tracking & tracing of drug quality. The pharmaceutical industry is stepping into a future, which is driven by technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT), and the near-field communication (NFC) technology is emerging as an incredible array of critical operations in the industry.

NFC is emerging as the winning horse for pharmaceutical manufacturers, not only for weeding out falsified products but also to offer an additional means to improve prescription adherence. NFC-enabled pharmaceutical products are witnessing burgeoning demand among end users owing to their benefits in improving patient engagement through a bi-directional communication channel and fostering co-vigilance. NFC chips and tags are likely to gain popularity in the upcoming years as the pharmaceutical industry is moving towards a smarter and automated future.

Will NFC Replace RFID in Pharmaceutical Market?

As change is the only constant factor in the space of technologies, the adoption of RFID will increase at a steady rate with advent of new technologies such as NFC, in the upcoming years. NFC is no more a technology from the future and an uptick in NFC labels and tags is likely to have a significant impact on the adoption of RFID in pharmaceutical market in the coming decade.

Nevertheless, RFID is away from any threats at present, and will continue to defend its position with high penetration among drug manufacturers, wholesalers and other end users, including hospitals and clinics. Drug manufacturers and wholesalers will continue to incorporate a balanced combination of both, the RFID and NFC technologies, to offer safer and more secure solution to improve supply chain management in the pharmaceutical industry.