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January 10, 2006

More on Viagra tagging

Pfizer 's website has a Q&A page to answer pharmacists' questions about the new RFID Viagra tagging project. It indicates that some Viagra patients may receive drugs with a remote-readable RFID tag attached:

Q: Will consumers receive Viagra with an RFID tag?

A: It's possible but not very likely. Most Viagra is dispensed by pharmacists in quantities smaller than those ackaged by Pfizer. If a consumer receives Viagra in the original Pfizer packaging and is uncomfortable with the RFID tagged bottle, they can always request the product be dispensed in an amber vial. The Pfizer application of RFID on Viagra does NOT allow the tracking of patient information.

Though taking home tagged Viagra may not be likely, why would you want to send anyone home with a remotely-readable impotence drug? Though Pfizer suggests that people could ask to have their pills placed in a special vial, the average American won't know to ask the pharmacist to do this, given that less than 10% of the American public knows what RFID is.

But here's the real question: Why is Pfizer shifting the burden of privacy protection onto its customers? Wouldn't it be smarter for Pfizer to simply instruct pharmacists to remove the RFID tag before dispensing the product to them? This would eliminate the consumer privacy problem of item-level tagging altogether, and assuage the fears of consumer privacy groups (like ours). We have already stated that we have no problem with RFID being used to authenticate drugs in the supply chain, before being dispensed to consumers. (See Section V of our Position Paper.)

If Pfizer is asking pharmacists to go to all the trouble of subjecting each Viagra package to a cumbersome authentication procedure, why doesn't it ask them to take the simple, additional step of removing the tag to ensure patient privacy, as well? The "amber vial" should be automatic.

Finally, that part about not containing any patient information is a red herring. I don't need to peruse your medical chart or even know your name to put two and two together if I scan your bag and get a tell-tale Pfizer radio signature back.

Pfizer's Q&A is online here: http://www.pfizer.com/pfizer/subsites/counterfeit_importation/mn_pharmacist_viagra_rfid_faq.jsp

Posted by Katherine Albrecht at January 10, 2006 10:30 AM


Hack again?!

Posted by: WriglyB at April 25, 2007 9:06 PM

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