Successful Aegate pharma pilot demonstrates potential to improve patient safety


Revealed today, results of a three month pilot, carried out by Aegate, a PA Group Company, in association with BT and DHL, show that fraudulent medicines can be identified at the point of dispensing; increasing patient safety and improving the service provided by pharmacists.

The results of the pilot confirm that radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and printed barcodes can be mass-deployed and that pharmacists are keen to gain the advantages of this technology. They also highlight opportunities to support the dispensing process and provide compelling evidence of the value of uniquely identifying medicines.

Forty-four pharmacies across England and Wales took part in the pilot between October 2004 and January 2005. These included independent community pharmacies, pharmacy chains, hospital pharmacies and doctors' dispensaries. Six drug manufacturers took part including Merck Generics UK, Merck Pharmaceuticals, Novartis, Schering Health Care and Solvay.

More than 180,000 pharmaceutical products, ranging from needles to Nurofen, were scanned at the point of dispensing.

Approximately 20,000 products were tagged with either a barcode or an RFID tag containing a unique number. When checked by the pharmacist using Aegate's custom-built scanner, the drug was authenticated if it matched details on a secure database, and rejected if not recognised.

In the UK, 11 per cent of all hospital admissions are due to medication errors, and there is a growing problem of fraudulent drugs.

The pilot has shown that Authentication at the point of dispensing(TM) is a simple scanning process and can reduce the risk of errors as well as alert dispensers to illegal, expired or recalled products before they are given to the patient. This is important in light of increasing concerns about the level of dispensing errors being made, particularly as the Department of Health has set a target of reducing errors by 40 per cent.

The trial also highlighted improvements that could be made to the way drug recalls are carried out. Several recalls occurred during the pilot and as a result, real time notices were provided to dispensers as they scanned the items. This has led one in four community pharmacies to keep using the scanner even though the pilot has now ended.

Fliss Davies, Cordon Pharmacy, said: 'We're always interested in ways to help improve the service we provide to our customers, especially if it is related to patient safety. The scanner has proved a very innovative addition to the dispensing process, and the extra checking step has increased our confidence that the selected item is both correctly dispensed and genuine.'

Ian Rhodes, CEO, Aegate, said: 'This pilot has shown that mass serialisation of medicines combined with a simple scanning process can greatly reduce both errors and illegal medicines before they are dispensed to the patient. This process is well aligned with the Government's eHealth agenda. As the next investments in eHealth technology start to take effect across the NHS i.e. implementation of broadband and electronic prescriptions, these three elements will create a major advance in patient safety.'

Ross Hall, CEO, Auto-ID Services, BT, added: 'Aegate's trial has been a huge success, and I'm pleased BT Auto-ID Services were able to support it the way we did. This pilot has without doubt proven that RFID can contribute towards improved patient safety in pharmacies, and the applications that can be developed to help build a safer NHS for patients are endless. We're very excited by the results of the trial and we're even more excited by the endless possibilities RFID can offer for further improvements in healthcare in the future.'

Aegate's system is technology independent; compatible with a wide range of RFID and barcode based mass serialisation approaches. In the pilot, for both RFID tagged and barcoded products, the average response time was under one second. During this time, the information on the tag was verified via a broadband connection to a secure database and then relayed back to the scanner.

John Peter, CEO, Solvay Healthcare Ltd said: 'The Aegate trial has demonstrated to us that if we were to implement unique identification tagging, pharmacists would welcome it and it would protect the authenticity of our products. As a socially responsible company, we are keen to ensure that our customers receive the best products possible and believe this pilot has identified many opportunities to increase patient safety.'

Please contact:

Alison Williams, Aegate Ltd: tel +44 (0)7714 697148 (email)

Suzy Christopher, BT: tel +44 (0)7885 652 235 (email)

Aegate and Authentication at the point of Dispensing are trademarks of Aegate Limited

About Aegate

Aegate is PA Consulting Group's latest venture, set up to test a new solution to combat pharmaceutical fraud.

Using existing technology applied in a novel way, 'Authentication at the point of dispensing'T will confirm that a medicine is as intended by the manufacturer and regulators at the time of dispensing.

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About PA Consulting Group

PA Consulting Group is a leading management, systems and technology consulting firm. Operating worldwide in more than 35 countries, PA draws on the knowledge and experience of 3,000 people, whose skills extend from the initial generation of ideas, insights and solutions all the way through to detailed implementation.

This benefits-driven approach is founded on our strength in innovation, our responsiveness to our clients' needs, and our unyielding focus on delivery. All of our work and support is based on deep sector insight and expertise, and we work across the private and public sectors, with particular strengths in financial services, energy, life sciences & healthcare, government & public services, manufacturing and telecommunications.

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About BT Auto-ID Services BT Auto-ID Services is a market leader in the provision of complete, scalable and affordable Automatic Identification solutions including RFID and barcoding.

As part of the BT Retail business, it combines the resources of a large corporation with the agility and flexible approach of a new technology start-up.

The BT Auto-ID Platform managed service is helping customers manage inventory control, increase sales, provide electronic proof of delivery, and comply with mandatory track, trace and authenticate requirements throughout the supply chain.

BT Auto-ID Services is one of 12 ventures that sits within BT Retail's Enterprises and Corporate Venturing approach. Led by CEO Ian Bull, BT's corporate venturing enables BT to harness innovation and create small businesses that can deliver new, rapid revenue growth. As a result, new and innovative products and services can be brought to the market quickly to meet customer needs while also enabling BT to continually transform and expand its core business.

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About BT

BT is one of the world's leading providers of communications solutions serving customers in Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific. Its principal activities include IT and networking services, local, national and international telecommunications services, and higher-value broadband and internet products and services.

BT consists principally of three lines of business:

BT Retail, providing a comprehensive range of communications and related services to more than 20m UK consumers and businesses.

BT Wholesale, providing network services and solutions within the UK to more than 600 fixed and mobile operators and service providers including the provision of broadband, private circuits.

BT Global Services, providing IT and networking services to meet the needs of multi-site organisations globally. BT Global Services operates in more than 130 countries and also offers international carrier services.

In the year ended 31 March 2004, BT Group's turnover was 18,519 million with profit before goodwill amortisation, exceptional items and taxation of 2,013 million.

BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York. British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group.

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About Solvay Healthcare

'Southampton-based Solvay Healthcare is a member of the Solvay group of companies. Established over 140 years ago Solvay, which employs some 30,000 people worldwide, retains its passionate interest in science, research and innovation. Solvay Pharmaceuticals, of which Solvay Healthcare is a member, is a global healthcare business with headquarters in Brussels, which researches, develops and provides medicine that meet patients' needs, particularly in the areas of cardiology, gastroenterology, women's health and psychiatry.

In the UK Solvay Healthcare generated over 50 million sales in 2003. Our continued success depends upon respect for those who use our medicines and those who work with us, the capability, creativity and energy of our people and our ability to respond rapidly and effectively to a changing environment.

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PA Consulting Group is an innovation and transformation consultancy. We believe in the power of ingenuity to build a positive human future in a technology-driven world.

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