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According to recent figures released by research group Health Industry Insights, the life sciences RFID market will experience blistering growth over the next few years and be worth an estimated $15 billion by 2009.

Pharmaceutical company adoption of item-level RFID tagging, which constitutes the bulk of the life sciences RFID market, will continue to drive this industry segment, Health Industry Insights found in a recent review of this industry segment.

Tagging at the level of prescription drug unit sold or dosage unit already accounts for $8.8 billion of the $9.7 billion current life sciences RFID market.

Item-level tracking helps to meet increasingly omnipresent various state and national requirements for a drug pedigree that are intended to discourage drug counterfeiting.

It enables pharmaceutical companies to trace a given item back through the shipping and manufacturing process.

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Tracking prescription drugs at the case or pallet level is another significant industry segment, currently worth about $272 million. The basic ability to track at this level helps pharmaceutical companies address fundamental supply chain management needs.

Health Industry Insights also pegs physician drug sample replenishment and management as a major market segment which has substantial growth potential.

To promote their products, pharmaceutical companies supply health care providers with a substantial amount of complimentary samples to distribute to patients.

Traditionally, pharmaceutical companies have allotted a major portion of their marketing spending toward “sampling” physicians. Sample distribution continues to be one of the largest, most expensive sales and marketing channels for pharmaceutical companies.

But pharmaceutical companies have been blind to how quickly these samples are distributed to patients, whether they are being given out appropriately, how directly they lead to increased prescription drug sales and whether patients may still be receiving drugs that have been recalled or are out of date.

Currently, $264 million is being spent to monitor sampling via RFID. By 2009, Health Industry Insights expects this to more than double to $573 million.

To establish these estimates, Health Industry Insights measured the growth opportunity for tags, readers, application software, middleware, network equipment, printers and implementation services for geographical regions.

Beyond the item-level, case/pallet level, and sampling RFID tracking, the research group also identified several other significant life sciences RFID segments. These include biospecimen track and trace and high-throughput automated testing, clinical development electronic data capture, batch track and trace/process analytical technology, demand-driven supply network, asset/equipment management and maintenance, as well as employee identity and access management.

Health Industry Insights, an IDC company, was founded last fall and provides research-based advisory and consulting services for the health care industry.

The research group anticipates publishing several more reports specifically on life sciences RFID market segments in the coming months.

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