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FDA Using Antennas to Track Drugs

FDA Using Antennas to Track Drugs

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingToday the Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for manufacturers to use tiny radio antennas on prescription drug shipments to track their products from the assembly line to the pharmacy. They're trying to put thieves and counterfeiters out of business.

The technology isn't new, but it's never been used on prescription drugs. The FDA hopes electronic monitoring will allow them to keep better track of what ends up on pharmacy shelves.

Drug makers will soon use tags to track prescription drugs. They work like tiny radio antennas. Wal-Mart uses it to keep track of inventory. Animal shelters use it to identify lost pets. Viagra and the pain medicine Oxycontin will be among the first drugs to use these tags.

Less than one percent of US prescriptions are believed to be counterfeit, but the problem has quadrupled in the past few years.

William Hubbard, FDA Associate Commissioner: “This is an effort to head the counterfeiters off at the pass, to keep them from being able to get to our patients here in our country.”

For now you won't see these tags on your individual bottle of pills, just on the large ones delivered to the pharmacy. It’s just one more effort, the FDA says, to keep America's drug supply safe.

But that safety comes at a cost. Each tag costs 30 to 50 cents. The scanners can cost up to a thousand dollars each. The FDA says it does not expect the industry to pass those costs on to patients.

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