Track-and-trace technology pops up in NY Police effort to combat pharmacy robberies

NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly sketches out GPS tracking decoys for controlled substances

According to an NYTimes article this week, pharmacies in New York City and surrounding areas are, or will soon be, deploying decoy bottles of oyxcodone, a controlled substance, with GPS tracking sensors embedded. In theory, a thief stealing the drug could be tracked by police monitoring the GPS signals. The decoy bottles come from Purdue Pharma, makers of Oxycontin and other controlled-substance formulations, according to the article; a Purdue spokeswoman confirmed that the company is working with police in New York and commented that “it would not be appropriate” to disclose details.

Nevertheless, Kelly and other NYPD spokespersons detailed that the devices are in “bait bottles,” not containing drug, and the GPS tracker is activated when the bottle is removed from a base plate on the pharmacy shelf. The technology is being tried in Suffolk County, New York, which witnessed a brutal robber y and multiple homicides in 2011, part of a rash of such robberies.

Purdue, whose controlled-release OxyContin product has long been a preferred abused drug, was one of the early adopters of RFID technology to serialize product bottles in the mid-2000s, and has supported numerous law-enforcement and public-health efforts to counter drug abuse.

The article concludes with the reporter saying that the NYPD is considering the “somewhat fanciful” idea of tracking not just bottles, but individual pills. But readers of Pharmaceutical Commerce know that this is hardly fanciful: technologies like those of NanoGuardian, TruTag Technologies or Applied DNA Sciences have all proposed methods to identify individual tablets with markings or taggants.