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Vendor-managed system inventories and protects specialty pharmaceuticals in healthcare settings
The ASD Healthcare unit of AmerisourceBergen (Frisco, TX) is a specialty distributor of oncology, nephrology and blood-derivative products for specialty pharmacies and clinics; for the past several years it has marketed a combined storage and inventory-management system called Cubixx. The Cubixx unit (see photo) is a refrigerator-sized, powered unit that employs RFID technology to track inventory, record additions and removals and provide security for the high-value products typically stored within it. Keeping the inventory under temperature-controlled (cold chain) conditions is also an important feature.
During a review of the system’s metrics, the company noted the passage of the 400-billionth scan. “With the increase in use of RFID technology, growth has been exponential,” said Chris Flori, a VP at ASD Healthcare, in a statement. “We expect hitting another major milestone within the next year and look forward to continuing to serve providers and patients with this time-saving technology.” It’s not possible to back out overall dispensing volume from this number, but the company notes that it performs 150 million scans daily.
Cubixx represents two fairly novel trends in pharmaceutical distribution: vendor-managed inventory (VMI) and the use of RFID. VMI—which exists apart from specialty cabinets like Cubixx—enables a supplier like AmerisourceBergen to take responsibility for keeping a sufficient inventory of product on hand, and rotating the inventory to ensure that it does not reach expiration. The client gets billed when product is dispensed, and therefore does not have to carry the inventory cost. RFID involves placing a chip on the unit package of the pharmaceutical, whose radio signal can be read and logged by a data reader in the Cubixx unit. (RFID had a moment in the sun in the decade-long track-and-trace evolution in pharmaceutical distribution; while it is used in cases like AmerisourceBergen’s VMI, and for some phrmaceuticals, the pharma industry has mostly settled on 2D barcodes as the preferred means of tracking unit packages.)