On April 21, 1980, Rosie Ruiz was the first runner to cross the finish line in the Boston Marathon’s women’s race—or so it seemed. Actually, riding the subway for most of the race and emerging from the crowd during the final half-mile helped Ruiz claim her first-place medal. (She was determined a fraud a week later.)
Interestingly, Ruiz’s bad judgment and fraudulent act set the stage for more sophisticated data tracking during races, including on-course video cameras, and most notably, runner chips. (The computer chips, which runners attach to their sneakers, interact with sensor mats placed at checkpoints between the start and finish lines. This enables officials to track and record each registered participant’s progress in real time.)
Currently, the danger of counterfeit drugs is pushing a similar data-tracking movement.
The public often associates counterfeit medicines with drugs available illegally online. However, many fake drugs unknowingly are being sold and distributed through retail pharmacies.
Until recently, counterfeiting was difficult to detect. In 2006, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stepped in and began adding information-tracking guidelines to control the situation and help the retail industry fight back.
The agency tied its efforts to the use of e-pedigrees, or electronic documents that track the change of custody as items pass through the supply chain. They are a perfect fit for the pharmaceutical supply chain. Interest is growing, albeit slowly.
As of July 2006, a Florida law requires wholesale distributors based in the state to provide electronic pedigrees that can track drugs through the point of creation up through retail distribution. California will enact a similar law effective Jan. 1, 2009.
Based on its robust foundation, RFID promises to be a strong catalyst for e-pedigrees. Its powerful data-collection principles enable users to uniquely identify labeled objects, and it also provides granular insight into tagged items’ movement.
Interestingly, some fault RFID for e-pedigrees’ slow adoption. Some say RFID systems are too expensive. Others say RFID doesn’t “fit” all drugs. (For example, tags are