[Hpn] Medicine bottles get tiny radio antennas/FDA to endorse 'bar code that barks

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Mon, 15 Nov 2004 11:01:45 -0500

It is bad enough that "BIG BROTHER" watches us from cams and satellites
now in our own medicines bottles? NoWay! Tink
The original article can be found on SFGate.com here:
Monday, November 15, 2004 (SF Chronicle)
Medicine bottles get tiny radio antennas/FDA to endorse 'bar code that
barks' for curbing fraud
Gardiner Harris, New York Times

 Washington -- The Food and Drug Administration and several major drug
makers are expected to announce an agreement today to put tiny radio
antennas on the labels of millions of medicine bottles to combat
counterfeiting and fraud.

Among the medicines that will soon be tagged are Viagra, one of the most
counterfeited drugs in the world, and OxyContin, a narcotic that has
become one of the most abused medicines in the United States. The tagged
bottles -- for now, only the large ones from which druggists get the pills
to fill prescriptions -- will start going to distributors this week,
officials said.

But the technology is not expected to stop there. The adoption by the drug
industry, officials said, could be the leading edge of a change that will
rid grocery stores of checkout lines, find lost luggage in airports,
streamline warehousing and add a new weapon in the battle against cargo

"It's basically a bar code that barks," said Robin Koh, director of
applications research at the Auto-ID Labs of the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology. "This technology is opening a whole series of opportunities
to make supply chains more efficient and more secure."
Wal-Mart and the Department of Defense have already mandated that their
top 100 suppliers put the antennas on delivery pallets beginning next
January. In June, Accenture, a technology consulting firm, won a contract
worth as much as $10 billion from the Department of Homeland Security to
use radio tags at United States border checkpoints. Other companies are
rushing into the market for scanners, computer chips and other elements of
the technology.

The labels are called radio-frequency identification. As with automated
highway toll systems, they consist of computer chips embedded into
stickers that emit numbers when prompted by a radio signal. In a
supermarket, they might enable a scanner to read every item in a shopping
cart at once and spit out a bill in seconds.

For drug makers, radio labels hold the promise of cleaning up the
wholesale distribution system, where most counterfeit drugs enter the
supply chain -- often through unscrupulous employees at small wholesale
companies that have proliferated in some states.

The initial expense of the system will be considerable. Each label costs
up to 50 cents; the readers and scanners cost thousands of dollars. But
because the medicines tend to be very expensive and the need to ensure
their authenticity is great, officials said, the expense of the radio
labels is justified.

Privacy-rights advocates have expressed reservations about the labels,
worrying that employers and others will be able to learn what medications
people have in their pockets. Civil liberties groups have voiced similar
concerns about ubiquitous use of the technology in the marketplace. But
under the current agreement, the technology would not come into play at
the retail level.

Radio labels fight counterfeiting by providing a unique identifier that is
difficult to copy. When pharmacists receive delivery, they should be able
to pass a wand over the bottles and, through a database, check the history
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Copyright 2004 SF Chronicle