These are interesting times for pharmaceutical companies. On the one hand,
various market analysts, including Deloitte Global Life Sciences, are
predicting strong growth over the next years, with a CAGR of around 5%
globally through 2020 and global revenues increasing to 1.2 trillion US
dollars in 2020.
On the other hand, pharma is having to work harder to stay ahead. This is due
to a number of challenges, ranging from increased regulation, which requires
closer tracking and integrity protection of items while they’re in the
supply chain, decreased revenue, resulting from the presence of counterfeit
drugs and grey markets, and increasing cost pressures caused by governmental
health reforms, including value-based care models or pro-generic
policies. There’s also the need to become more patient-centric,
by offering products and services that make it easier for patients to follow
treatment plans and encourage active patient interaction.
The key question, then, is how best to address these challenges and still meet
growth targets. For many pharma brands, the answer lies in mobile health
technology. More specifically, it means using Near Field Communication (NFC)
to improve products, making them more intelligent, more interactive, more
traceable and more valuable.
Leveraging the Pharma IoT
A growing number of pharma companies are discovering the power of putting
smart NFC tags on or into their product packages, as part of a label, a
closure or the container itself. Smart NFC tags can deliver several benefits.
They give each product a unique identity, and support additional security
features and functionalities, so each item easier to authenticate and trace.
NFC tags also provide a direct link to the cloud, so products can join the
pharmaceutical Internet of Things (IoT). By tapping the product package with
an NFC-enabled smartphone, people can use the smart, IoT-connected NFC tag to
access everything from authenticity checks to dosing information, diagnostic
tools and supply chain details.
The recent uptick in smart NFC labels and packaging for pharma products has
followed the rapid growth of NFC-enabled smartphones. 2019 shipments of
NFC-enabled smartphones are forecast to be just under 1 billion units, and the
installed base is predicted to reach 2.3 billion units (ABI Research, Strategy
Analytics). As the installed base goes up, so does the number of people
able to read smart pharma labels and there is greater incentive for
pharmaceuticals to leverage features made possible by the IoT.
Why NFC is a Great Choice for Smart Pharma
There are three reasons why NFC tagging is an ideal choice for smart pharma
applications. First, NFC is designed for secure ID applications, since each
NFC tag carries a unique ID and can incorporate proven security features,
including cryptographic algorithms, that safeguard data. Second, NFC offers
data storage for on-product data, from a simple web link to a tamper-evident
or ambient-temperature status, for quick, efficient interactions. And third,
NFC connects to off-product information, providing access to large amounts of
cloud-based data, such as detailed product information, contextual rules
for targeted messaging, historic tracking or an online authentication service.
The result is a secure approach to digitalization for just about any pharma
The Benefits of Smart, NFC-driven Solutions
The features and functionalities described above – secure ID,
on-product data and off-product data – combine to yield a wide range
of capabilities that deliver a variety of benefits, including increased
patient safety, higher quality assurance, greater consumer/patient engagement and more effective messaging and analytics.
Anti-Counterfeiting and Channel Traceability
By helping to
ensure patient safety, combat fraud and increase traceability, NFC smart
tags and labels help protect brands and increase consumer
confidence.Inspectors and consumers can securely verify that a product is
genuine. Verification can happen in near real time, anywhere in the world,
by simply tapping an NFC-enabled smartphone to the product package.The need
to combat counterfeit drugs is critical. The World Health Organization (WHO)
recently reported that 8 to 15% of drugs sold globally are fake or
substandard. Developing countries are more affected than developed
countries. Not only do fake medicines impact pharma revenues, they pose a
health risk, since they can contain incorrect doses, wrong ingredients, or
no active ingredients at all.For channel traceability and to help identify
sales outside authorized markets, NFC tags can be assigned to specific
distributors and locations. The ability to authenticate and trace products
within the supply chain, using location awareness and cloud-based
monitoring, also makes it easier for pharma companies to meet regulatory
requirements and protect the last mile to the consumer. By identifying
clusters of counterfeits, tampering episodes or diverted products, pharma
companies can take corrective actions sooner.
Anti-Tampering and other Product Integrity Assurance
increasing number of medication – as many as one-third of all new FDA
approval in the U.S. – are heat sensitive, which means improper
storage and transit issues can impact quality and reduce effectiveness.
Regulations for temperature control cover the points between the pharma
company and the pharmacy or hospital, but not the last mile to the patient.
Smart NFC labels can be equipped with temperature sensors and data loggers
that monitor ambient temperature changes at any time and report whether a
product has been handled correctly, even once it’s left the supply
chain and is in the patient’s hands. The pharma company can trace
when and where any problems occur, for quick remediation, and patients can
be certain of a drug’s quality and effectiveness.Tamper evidence,
which indicates if a product has been opened or interfered with prior to
sale, is another feature that can reassure patients. Tamper evidence can
remove doubts about whether a product has been diluted, refilled or
otherwise substituted from the original, for increased consumer-patient
The increased use of apps, wearables and sensors is evidence that patients
want to be more engaged in their own care, want to play a more active role
in managing their well-being and want to know more about their medications.
Deloitte reports that there are over 260,000 health apps in use worldwide
and that 70% of patient groups use at least one app to manage their
condition – making it clear that a mobile ecosystem has developed
within healthcare.On-demand product information, such as ingredients,
origin, expiration date or intended use, along with interactions with
smartphone apps, such as medication management tools, diaries, or alarms and connection to doctors and social patient networks, give consumers new
ways to become more engaged. Smart NFC labels and packages can help patients
stick to their treatment plans, since the technology lets pharma companies
communicate key information, such as dosage and usage information, directly
to patients via their smartphones.WHO estimates that more than half of
patients with chronic diseases fail to adhere to their prescribed therapy.
Smart NFC packages can be configured to sense when a pill is taken out of a
blister package and then log date and time of the action. This feature, when
used with an NFC phone and an app, can generate reminders to take a pill
and/or check proper dosage. When combined with cloud connectivity, it can
enable treatment monitoring and advice by a physician. Helping patients keep
to their dosing schedules can be especially useful with the treatment of
chronic illnesses, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and other
conditions that need ongoing care.Smart NFC packages also give patients a
way to interact with pharma companies, in support of the pharmacovigilance
tasks related to product safety. Mobile consumer/patient engagement can help
identify and prevent adverse effects associated with a given medication.
Patients can use an application to report any health issues associated with
use of a product, and pharmaceutical companies can inform their app users if
a product is recalled. These kinds of interactions also create closer
relationships between pharma companies and their consumer/patient customers.
Automated Device Interaction
Health devices, such as glocuse
meters and other drug-delivery devices, can be equipped with NFC readers
that communicate with NFC tagged refills, to automatically confirm origin
and prevent container re-use. NFC tagged refills can make products easier to
use, too. By storing configuration data, the NFC tag can automate setups and by storing expiration dates, the NFC tag can ensure the refill is still
within its recommended use period.
Real-World Use Cases
Here are just some of the ways that today’s pharma companies are
creating a competitive advantage with smart NFC labels.
To guarantee the safety of their products and combat
counterfeiting, VIVACY uses smart NFC labels with their STYLAGE lidocaine
products, a range of dermal fillers for use in anti-aging and aesthetic
medicine. Each box of STYLAGE is affixed with a smart NFC label, supplied by
Paragon ID, which is encoded at the time of production and bears the lot number.
Distributors and consumers anywhere around the world can e-verify the
authenticity of VIVACY products by scanning them with their smartphones via
a dedicated mobile app, called My Vivacy. The app reads the data on the chip
and offers real-time information about origin and other manufacturing data.
Recognized as a leader in the development of traceability
solutions for sensitive health products, including blood components, plasma
for the manufacture of blood-derived drugs and injectable chemotherapy
drugs, BIOLOG-ID uses an award-winning NFC labelling system to trace
products and comply with strict health and safety requirements. The smart
NFC labels, supplied by Paragon ID and used with all bags containing blood
plasma, are able to withstand difficult storage and usage conditions,
including extreme cold, and offer increased control of the distribution
network at every stage of a product’s journey to the patient.
SCHREINER MediPharm, Germany
For many years, SCHREINER MediPharm has been a global provider of
specialty pharmaceutical labeling solutions. They offer a broad portfolio
of customized solutions with integrated NFC. These include a secure,
tamper-evident labeling solution, based on NFC, designed for boxes and
containers, as well as for products such as injection pens and other
devices for drug delivery. Their smart NFC labels guarantee product
authenticity and detect the first product opening. They also support
tailored, context-based user/patient messages. Before product opening, the
messages including ingredients, formulation, and expiration date, and
after opening they offer instructions for use, demo videos and additional
product information. All these features can be accessed using an intuitive
Made Possible by NXP
As the co-inventor of NFC and a leading supplier for advanced RFID solutions,
NXP provides the foundational technology for the IoT. Our portfolio focuses on
the secure collection of IDs and data from everyday products, along with
communication of that data to the cloud, where products have their own
addressable digital profiles and can exchange data in real time.
products combine HF functionality for use in the supply chain and NFC
functionality for use by consumers, while our dedicated
NFC products, now in their second generation, support the latest mobile
applications, including secure product authentication and information sharing
on or off package.
Here are a few portfolio highlights, recommended for use with Android or iOS:
NTAG 213 Tag Tamper
Equipped with a tamper loop that indicates when the package
has been opened, this NFC tag also has a brand-specific originality
signature that assures tag origin. The tag supports pre- and post-sale
messaging, with content, based on real-time product status, for deeper
NTAG 413 DNA
Designed for security-sensitive applications, this is a
crypto-secure NFC tag for tap-unique authentication. The tag generates a
Secure Unique NFC (Sun) authentication message upon each phone read-out.
This high-level security feature, which is available with all standard NFC
reader phones, allows for authentic and integrity protected data exchange
with a server.
These semi-passive tags combine NFC functionality with
autonomous sensing, data processing and logging, powered by a battery. The
functionality is both flexible and autonomous, leveraging an Arm Cortex-M0+
microcontroller and a large, nonvolatile memory. Information is protected
from the sensor to the cloud, assuring data origin and protecting sensor
data against tampering and unauthorized access.
Protecting and Engaging Patients
Pharmaceuticals are entering a new era, using technology to enhance patient
safety and increase patient engagement. When pharma products are equipped with
smart NFC labels that connect to cloud-based functionality, pharmaceuticals
become part of the IoT and can deliver valuable benefits to everyone, from the
pharma companies to medical professionals and patients. As brand owners,
pharma companies get the benefit of direct patient engagement, protection
against counterfeits, the potential for increased revenue and real-time data
about patient behavior. From the consumer-patient point of view, smart pharma
products offer easy, on-demand access to relevant information and the option
to access personalized, 24/7 services.
Take the Next Step
To learn more about how smart NFC solutions can transform pharma products,
dedicated site for NFC products or contact your
local NXP sales office.