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 product.
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.
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.
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.
Our ICODE® products combine HF functionality for use in the supply chain and NFC functionality for use by consumers, while our dedicated NTAG® 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:
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.
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