Suzuken Group Deploys RFID-Enabled Coolers for Drug Tracking

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Japanese health-care and pharmaceuticals company Suzuken Group is deploying an RFID-based solution from AmerisourceBergen to manage the locations and statuses of medications at clinics, hospitals and retail locations, as well as in transportation vehicles. The system employs the RFID-based drug-management solution known as Cubixx, supplied by AmerisourceBergen's specialty pharmaceutical distributor division, ASD Healthcare.

The solution allows Suzuken to track the movements of medications from distribution sites to clinical trials at third-party locations, and to retailers and clinics. The company can also monitor expiration dates and automate the re-ordering of inventory.

Established in 1932, the Suzuken Group is one of Japan's largest pharmaceutical distribution and logistics services companies. The firm serves as wholesaler for the drugs transported by its own vans to such locations as hospitals, laboratories, clinics and drug stores—which, in some cases, it also owns.

The company began working with ASD in 2015 to develop a system that would automate the tracking of some of its high-value products, according to Chris Flori, ASD Healthcare's business innovation VP. "The catalyst was specialty drugs," he says, which must be tested multiple times before they can be provided to consumers. As such, tracking them as they are moved to other locations—for clinical trials, for example—is not only critical, Flori says, but also complex. Drugs that have been certified may be sent to a third-party location for recertification before they are provided to customers.

Suzuken wanted to know where products were located, and to share that data with authorized parties. What's more, it sought to track when a particular product might be approaching its expiration date. The company began using Cubixx RFID-enabled coolers and RFID tags on some goods as an 18-month trial, which is now transitioning into a full-scale deployment that will be carried out during the course of the next several months, to include more than 1,000 units. Suzuken has declined to comment for this story.

ASD Healthcare has been offering its Cubixx solution for a decade, initially to acute-care facilities, as well as pharmacies, clinics, hospitals and patients, to track RFID-tagged products inside their Cubixx coolers (see ASD Healthcare Deploys RFID Refrigerated Drug Cabinets).

Each unit comes with a built-in ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID reader and antenna array. The make or model of antenna and reader varies, depending on the pharmacy's criteria and the specific Cubixx unit in use. The units can serve as refrigerators or freezers, with the RFID readers capturing tag read data at temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees Fahrenheit). They can also capture ambient or controlled room temperatures. Cubixx units and data are completely customizable, Flori says.

Last update: Feb 14, 2017

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