Pfizer is to start using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on its US shipments of Viagra to help tackle counterfeiters of the male sexual performance drug.
Viagra is one of the most counterfeited drugs being promoted online, with spammers sending out millions of junk e-mails every day in an attempt to sell copies of the much sought-after drug.
To help address the situation and try to reduce the millions of dollars it loses in sales from this racket, the drug company is to affix RFID tags to all US packets of the drug.
The company is expected to eventually extend the use of RFID tags worldwide.
Pfizer is now adding RFID tags to all bottles of Viagra, along with the cases and pallets used for shipment.
The company is spending around $5m (£3m) on the US project. It is using French company Tagsys to supply the tags for bottles and US company Alien Technology for the supply of case and pallet tags.
Each tag contains a microchip that stores a unique serial code for each bottle and an antenna for transmitting this number wirelessly to electronic readers.
Pharmacists and drug distributors can read the codes with a reader to verify their authenticity, by checking a Pfizer database via the web. Pfizer is not supplying these readers and so far few pharmacists and distributors have bought such devices.
But the US Food and Drug Administration has urged the drugs industry to deploy RFID technology to increase the security of their products – something which Pfizer is relying on to spread use of its RFID system.
RFID tags will not be put on the pharmacy bottles used to distribute the drug to end users, allaying fears that Viagra users could be tracked.