The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week stepped up its efforts to ensure the safety and security of the nation’s drug supply through the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies.

Specifically, the FDA published a guide for implementing RFID feasibility studies and pilot programs, and announced an internal workgroup that would monitor RFID implementation in the pharmaceutical supply chain and identify and find solutions to regulatory issues that emerge with the use of the technology. The FDA hopes RFID will be deployed throughout the retail supply chain by 2007.

In related news, pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer said this week it would place RFID tags on cases and retail packages of its Viagra drug in an effort to combat counterfeit medications. Pfizer anticipates that the project, which it said would cost “several million dollars,” will result in RFID-labeled product being shipped by the end of 2005. Viagra was selected because it is “one of the most recognizable and counterfeited” drugs in the U.S., the company said.

Also, the Walgreen’s drug store chain said this week it is participating in Jumpstart, a drug-industry program supported by retailers, manufacturers and distributors to implement RFID. Walgreen’s received RFID-labeled cases and individual packages of prescription drugs from various manufacturers and distributors, and reported that it is “possible to track and trace bottle-level movement” of prescription drugs through the supply chain to ensure they are coming from a legitimate source.