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What is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act?

Today’s question: What is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act?

We’ve written extensively about the legislation, which was passed on November 27, 2013. But with the deadline for full compliance quickly approaching, we thought a quick overview was in order. So let’s answer the question, What is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act?

What Is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act?

If you’re a pharmaceutical company — a manufacturer, wholesaler, dispenser, repackager, or third-party logistics provider — you must comply with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) if you want to do business in the United States.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the goal of the DSCSA is “to build an electronic, interoperable system to identify and trace certain prescription drugs as they are distributed in the United States.” The Act “will enhance [the] FDA’s ability to help protect consumers from exposure to drugs that may be counterfeit, stolen, contaminated, or otherwise harmful” and “improve detection and removal of potentially dangerous drugs from the drug supply chain to protect U.S. consumers.”

The law has been rolled out in phases since it was passed nearly 10 years ago. Implementation culminates on November, 27, 2023, at which time the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain will be fully serialized.

Key requirements of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act

The FDA puts DSCSA requirements into the following categories:

1. Product identification/serialization

A unique product identifier (PI), such as a bar code, must be placed on certain prescription drug packages.

2. Product tracing

Stakeholders must provide information about a drug and who handled it each time it’s sold. This includes transaction information (TI), a transaction statement (TS), and a transaction history (TH), collectively known as “T3” information. Read our “Dispensers and DSCSA 2023” white paper for more about T3 information.

3. Product verification

Stakeholders must establish systems and processes to verify PIs for certain prescription drugs packages. The Verification Router Service (VRS) enables a rapid, secure exchange of data to do this. See more about VRS below.

4. Detection and response + notification

Stakeholders must quarantine and promptly investigate suspect or illegitimate drugs. They must also notify the FDA and other interested parties when they find such drugs.

5. Licensing

Wholesalers must report their licensing status and contact information to the FDA. Third-party logistics providers must obtain a state or federal license.

Looking forward

The FDA has delayed the rollout of the DSCSA two times, giving the industry extra time to prepare. However, an FDA official recently said there will be no more delays. November 27, 2023, is a done deal.

In terms of what’s next, take a look at our “DSCSA 2023: The Future of Pharmaceutical Traceability in the United States” blog post. This gets into the granular details of the transformation that’s going to happen in 2023, but here are the basics of what to expect:

Serialization

Serialization relies on product identifiers (the “PIs” we mentioned above), which include serial numbers and expiration dates. For 2023, all transaction information (the “TI” we mentioned above) must include the PI. TI includes the following:

  • The product name
  • The product’s strength and dosage form
  • The product’s National Drug Code
  • The container size and number of containers
  • The lot number
  • The transaction date
  • The shipment date
  • The name and address of the businesses from which and to which ownership is being transferred
Authorized trading partners

Put simply, the DSCSA says that if you’re not an authorized trading partner (ATP), your access to the U.S. pharma supply chain will be severely restricted or denied altogether. All manufacturers, wholesale distributors, repackagers, third-party logistics providers, and dispensers and their trading partners must be ATPs. We did a deep dive on ATPs earlier this year; read our two-part series here.

Verifying drugs

The DSCSA’s saleable returns verification requirement stipulates that wholesalers must verify all returned drugs before they can be reintroduced to the supply chain. This is done by verifying a drug’s PI. A wholesaler must initiate a verification request to the drug’s manufacturer, then the manufacturer must provide a verification response within 24 hours. The Verification Router Service — the VRS — is what enables the rapid, secure exchange of data between these parties. Like everything else in the DSCSA, we’ve written extensively about the VRS. Our “DSCSA Saleable Returns Verification Requirement: Just the Facts” article is a good place to start.

Final thoughts

What is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act? The DSCSA makes pharma stakeholders responsible for securing the U.S. supply chain. It doesn’t matter if you’re a manufacturer, wholesaler, repackager, third-party logistics provider, or a dispenser — the law affects how you conduct business. Your compliance depends on making sure you can meet your responsibilities.

That’s where rfxcel comes in.

A fully serialized pharma supply chain is just two years away. It’s important to use this time to get your systems in place. We have almost 20 years of experience providing the pharmaceutical industry with leading regulatory and compliance software. So if you aren’t sure if you’re going to be ready for DSCSA 2023 and want to see a short demo of our solutions — or just want to know more about your responsibilities — contact us today. Our DSCSA experts will work directly with you to design a solution that meets your specific needs, no matter your role in the supply chain.

In the meantime, you can hear directly from our experts in our “Plan for DSCSA Readiness” webinar and our DSCSA 2023 webinar series. These are great resources to help you better understand the law.

Drug Supply Chain Security Act Pharmacy Responsibilities

Drug Supply Chain Security Act pharmacy responsibilities are complex. They can be confusing. But the clock is ticking to be ready for the November 27, 2023, deadline. Let’s do a quick recap for pharmacies.

What is the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act?

The U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act, enacted on November 27, 2013, establishes a system to track and trace prescription drugs in a fully serialized supply chain. It calls for end-to-end traceability and electronic interoperability to prevent counterfeit, stolen, contaminated, or otherwise harmful drugs from entering the U.S. supply chain.

So far, the DSCSA has mostly focused on lot-level traceability — exchanging information about every package of medication so stakeholders can see exactly where it has been. Enactment culminates in November 2023, with complete unit-level serialization of the U.S. drug supply chain. This means stakeholders will have to electronically track products at the individual package level.

Drug Supply Chain Security Act pharmacy responsibilities: definitions

Pharmacies are referred to as “dispensers” in the DSCSA. The legislation defines a dispenser as “a retail pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, a group of chain pharmacies under common ownership and control that do not act as a wholesale distributor, or any other person authorized by law to dispense or administer prescription drugs, and the affiliated warehouses or distribution centers of such entities under common ownership and control that do not act as a wholesale distributor.”

If you dispense only products to be used in animals, you are not a dispenser under the DSCSA.

How to comply with the DSCSA

As we said above, the Drug Supply Chain Security Act pharmacy responsibilities are complex. Let’s break them down into easy-to-understand pieces.

You must exchange “T3” information about every drug you buy and who handled it each time it changes ownership in the United States.

The DSCSA calls this “product tracing information.” It has three components, collectively called “T3” information:

  1. Transaction Information (TI) about a product (e.g., proprietary or established name or names and the strength and dosage form)
  2. Transaction History (TH), an electronic statement with the TI for every transaction going back to the manufacturer
  3. Transaction Statement (TS), which is an electronic statement confirming the entity transferring ownership.
You must receive, store, and provide product tracing documentation

You can accept prescription drugs only if they have proper T3 information, and you must store the T3 information for six years. You must also generate and provide all T3 information when you sell a prescription drug to a trading partner.

You can only do business with authorized trading partners (ATPs)

And speaking of trading partners, if you can’t confirm your they’re licensed or registered, you can’t do business with them. If they’re not authorized, their access to the U.S. pharma supply chain will be severely restricted or denied altogether. Read our in-depth ATP blog series for all the details.

You must investigate and properly handle suspect and illegitimate drugs

Suspect and illegitimate drugs include drugs that may be counterfeit, diverted, stolen, intentionally adulterated, or unfit for distribution — the problem the DSCSA was designed to eliminate. Pharmacies must quarantine and investigate these drugs to determine if they are fake. If you make this determination, the next step is to work with the manufacturer and take specific action to ensure the bad drug does not reach patients/consumers. You must also notify the FDA and your trading partners about the drug.

You must authenticate and verify drugs

This is what’s coming in 2023. You’ll have to be able to authenticate and verify all the medicines you buy before you can sell them. The fundamental requirement is that TI (transaction information) must include a product identifier (PI), which includes serial numbers and expiration dates. The Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) is likely to be the standard the industry will use to enable this exchange.

Final Thoughts

We’re writing this on November 24, 2021. Yes, it’s the day before Thanksgiving. (Happy Thanksgiving!) It’s also almost exactly two years from the DSCSA implementation deadline. That may seem like a long time, but …

It is definitely not a long time. There’s a lot to do to ensure you’ll comply with your Drug Supply Chain Security Act pharmacy responsibilities. If you aren’t sure you’ll be ready, contact us to schedule a short demo of our DSCSA solutions. Our team of supply chain experts will design a solution to ensure you meet all DSCSA requirements and remain compliant forever.

And if you’re looking for something to read over the Thanksgiving holiday, download our “Dispensers and DSCSA 2023” white paper. It drills down into what we talked about today and is a great reference tool to have on hand as you prepare for the full serialization of the U.S. pharma supply chain.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Countdown to DSCSA 2023 Serialization: The Deadline Is Just Two Years Away

November 27, 2023 — the date the pharmaceutical industry has had its sights on since the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) was enacted eight years ago. With only two years until the deadline, we thought it was a good time to recap what’s in store for DSCSA 2023 serialization.

The DSCSA Timeline

As our timeline shows, November 27, 2023, will be the 10th anniversary of the DSCSA. Per Section 582(g)(1) of the DSCSA (Title II of the Drug Quality and Security Act), “On the date that is 10 years after the date of enactment of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act … interoperable, electronic tracing of product at the package level requirements shall go into effect.” In other words, DSCSA 2023 serialization.

DSCSA 2023 Serialization Timeline

DSCSA 2023 serialization: recent developments

No more delays. On August 9, 2021, the FDA signaled that the DSCSA 2023 deadline for interoperability would not change. Leigh Verbois, the director of the FDA’s Office of Drug Security, Integrity, and Response, made the comments during a webinar hosted by the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA).

Draft and final guidance on product identifiers (PIs) and more. On June 3, 2021, the FDA published “new guidance to further enhance the security of prescription drugs in the U.S. supply chain.” Guidance was released for PIs, suspect and illegitimate products, and enhanced drug distribution security.

Full serialization

For DSCSA 2023 serialization, transaction information (TI) must include the PI, which includes serial numbers and expiration dates. The Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) appears to be the standard the industry will use to enable this exchange. Right now, TI and transaction statements (TS) are being electronically exchanged at the lot level, which is usually done with an advance ship notice (ASN). The transition from ASN to EPCIS is a cornerstone of DSCSA 2023 serialization.

Authorized trading partners

Under the DSCSA, authorized trading partners (ATPs) may engage in transactions only with other ATPs. In other words, all manufacturers, wholesale distributors, repackagers, 3PLs, and dispensers and their trading partners must be ATPs. If they’re not authorized, their access to the U.S. pharma supply chain will be severely restricted or denied altogether. Read our in-depth ATP blog series here.

Verification Router Service (VRS)

Under the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement, wholesalers must verify saleable returns before they can be reintroduced to the supply chain. This is done by verifying the drug’s PI. A wholesaler must initiate a verification request (to a manufacturer) to verify the returned products, and the manufacturer must provide a verification response within 24 hours. The VRS enables the rapid, secure exchange of data between these parties. Get more details here.

Final thoughts

We have been talking about and reporting on the DSCSA Day 1. We’ve been active in industry initiatives, particularly the VRS and the Open Credentialing Initiative (OCI) to meet ATP requirements. We’re ensuring the Ohio Department of Veterans Affairs is DSCSA-compliant. And we’ll soon be announcing another exciting initiative in the move toward full serialization of the U.S. pharma supply chain. Keep an eye out for that.

This year, we hosted a “Plan for DSCSA Readiness” webinar in March and a DSCSA 2023 webinar series in June that covered ATPs, EPCIS, and the VRS. We also published a “Dispensers and DSCSA 2023” white paper in May.

We’ve also been helping pharma companies and public-sector organizations comply with the DSCSA and other pharma regulations around the world. From our Serialization Processing and Compliance Management solutions to the full-scale power of our Traceability System, we ensure compliance no matter your role in the supply chain.

Take another look at our DSCSA timeline. A lot has happened since 2013 — and the pace will only intensify over the next two years. Contact us today if you need to know more. Our supply chain and DSCSA experts are here to help and make sure you’re ready for 2023

 

DSCSA VRS: Top Verification Router Service Questions, Answered

When do I need to implement the DSCSA VRS? Are there any new developments the industry should be aware of? What are some of the “sticking points” with the VRS today?

These were just a few of the questions asked during the first of three “DSCSA 2023” webinars that we held last month. In “The Verification Router Service: Aligning to the Standard,rfxcel VP of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives Herb Wong and Global Executive Advisor Brian Files answered these and other questions about the DSCSA VRS. Below, we give their answers to the most-asked questions.

Check back throughout the week, because we’ll be posting the top questions from the other two webinars in the series, “ASN to EPCIS: Industry Change, Your Challenge” and “Authorized Trading Partners: The OCI Solution.

The webinars were part of our ongoing efforts to keep pharma stakeholders up to date with the DSCSA and help the industry prepare for the full serialization of the U.S. pharma supply chain in November 2023. If you have other questions or want more details about DSCSA 2023, contact us today. You can also watch the webinars and download the presentation slides here.

When do I need to implement the DSCSA VRS?

Manufacturers and wholesalers/distributors should be implementing right now. VRS is a cornerstone of the DSCSA; it’s not going away. As you go through the 2020 to 2023 period, working with your partners is going to be critical. You should also be working with your solution provider — or finding one if you don’t already have one. Keep your eyes on the November 27, 2023, deadline and always be working toward it so you’ll be ready and compliant. Dispensers should be looking carefully at the benefits of VRS and requirements for validating saleable returns. (See response to next question.)

Are there any new developments the industry should be aware of?

VRS is the first interoperable system in the DSCSA. Error management and handling the complexities involved with the enormous volume of returned products contributed to its delay until 2023. (Read our articles about the FDA’s decision to delay enforcement of the DSCSA saleable returns requirement.) Downstream partners only add to the volume and complexity the VRS must handle in sub-second time. So, it will be important for the industry to determine exactly how the VRS will be used and what type of volume controls and error management it will have. You must also consider what type of outcomes your partners will need, as well as what you need for your own business model.

What are some of the “sticking points” with the VRS today?

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) collected feedback from the industry about optimizations/improvements it would like to see in the VRS network and presented its findings to solution providers on June 11, 2021. We’re now in the process of evaluating the feedback to determine next steps.

The “sticking points” fall into six categories, as shown in the graphic below. The most predominant concern is how to deal with data synchronization issues. The process for resolving all these issues needs to be streamlined among service providers.

Industry Feedback on DSCSA VRS

What’s the current implementation rate and use of VRS?

That depends on which part of the supply chain you are referring to. There is no accurate estimate of this across the industry, but based on our observations, this is what we’re seeing: Manufacturers and distributors have the highest “implementation rate.” Approximately 70-80 percent of our manufacturers can support VRS and 80-90 precent of wholesalers/distributors are VRS ready. The numbers further down the supply chain are lower, but are increasing quickly as dispensers become more aware of the benefits of VRS.

My wholesale distributor takes care of VRS for me. What is my responsibility? Am I covered if I were to be audited?

This is a little tricky, because there’s a lot of information circulating about what wholesale distributors will and will not do in the VRS ecosystem.

Wholesale distributors are doing a lot of heavy lifting with VRS, but they’re not completely responsible for your DSCSA transactions. They’re responsible for your information that’s being plugged into the VRS, but they are not responsible if there are any problems with a returned product.

The simple truth is that every stakeholder is responsible for their own DSCSA compliance. Your wholesale distributor should be there to help coordinate to the extent of the arrangement and partnership you have, but they are not responsible for your compliance. It’s not their job to “take care of VRS” for you. As we get into 2023, you’re going to need hardware, software, and system updates ready to go, and you can’t “pass the buck” for VRS to your wholesale distributor — or any other trading partner.

More DSCSA 2023 resources from rfxcel

rfxcel DSCSA 2023 Webinar Series: Sneak Peek #1

Full serialization of the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain is coming in November 2023. That may seem like a long way off, but time flies and it will be here before you know it. To help make sure you’re working toward that deadline and doing everything you can to be prepared, we’re hosting the rfxcel DSCSA 2023 webinar series on June 15, 16, and 17.

Our Executive Global Advisor Brian Files, an expert on U.S. and international pharmaceutical compliance, will present three key aspects of the DSCSA and answer your questions. Sign up today!

  1. Tuesday, June 15: The Verification Router Service: Aligning to the Standard
  2. Wednesday, June 16: ASN to EPCIS: Industry Change, Your Challenge
  3. Thursday, June 17: Authorized Trading Partners: The OCI Solution

Here’s a sneak peek about the DSCSA Verification Router Service (VRS). Check back for more sneak peeks leading up to Brian’s other presentations in our rfxcel DSCSA 2023 webinar series!

What is the DSCSA?

The DSCSA went into effect on November 27, 2013. It calls for product tracing, product identifiers (PIs), authorized trading partners, and verification requirements for manufacturers, wholesale distributors, repackagers, and dispensers (pharmacies). As we said above, full serialization will begin in November 2023 (the 27th, to be exact).

What is the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement?

Under the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement, wholesalers must verify saleable returns before they can be reintroduced to the supply chain. This is done by verifying the drug’s PI, which comprises a Standardized Numerical Identifier (National Drug Code and a unique alphanumeric serial number), a lot ID, and an expiration date.

How does the DSCSA saleable returns requirement work?

A wholesaler must initiate a verification request (to a manufacturer) to verify the returned products. The manufacturer must provide a verification response within 24 hours. Wholesalers are called requestors and manufacturers are called responders.

The VRS and the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement

The VRS enables the rapid, secure exchange of data between requestors and responders to meet the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement. It’s an automated service that verifies if a PI is valid. A solution provider enables the verification requests to be routed between wholesalers and manufacturers.

Final thoughts

Be sure to join Brian on June 15 for “The Verification Router Service: Aligning to the Standard,” the first in our rfxcel DSCSA 2023 webinar series. Register today and submit your questions for Brian. You can also contact us to talk with one of our supply chain experts and see how our award-winning rfxcel Traceability System can ensure you comply with the saleable returns verification requirement and other key DSCSA requirements.

See you on June 15!

DSCSA 2023 Webinar_June 15-17

DSCSA 2023: The Future of Pharmaceutical Traceability in the United States

Welcome to the third and final installment of our DSCSA 2023 series. The first two parts talked about DSCSA authorized trading partners — manufacturers, wholesale distributors, repackagers, third-party logistics providers, and dispensers. If you’re not a DSCSA authorized trading partner, it will be difficult to do business in the United States, so be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2.

Today, we’re focusing on the day we’ve all been preparing for: November 27, 2023, the 10th anniversary of the DSCSA. Per Section 582(g)(1) of the DSCSA (Title II of the Drug Quality and Security Act):

“On the date that is 10 years after the date of enactment of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act … interoperable, electronic tracing of product at the package level requirements shall go into effect.”

So, in a little more than 2 years and 8 months from now, the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain will be fully serialized. Let’s take a closer look at what this means for the pharma industry and its authorized trading partners.

A quick clarification

This blog post looks at “the letter of the law” — the language in Section 582(g)(1) that lays out six requirements for DSCSA 2023.

For its part, the pharma industry has tended to see the DSCSA as having four pillars, as illustrated below. These pillars encompass the six requirements we’re talking about today.

DSCSA 2023 Four Pillars

Our own Herb Wong, VP of marketing and strategic initiatives, recently hosted a webinar about DSCSA 2023 readiness that included an overview of the four pillars. It’s a great follow-up to what you’ll read below and a valuable resource for every pharma supply chain stakeholder. If you missed it or want to watch it again, Herb’s webinar is here.

DSCSA 2023: six key requirements

To date, the DSCSA has focused on lot-level traceability, or exchanging information about every package of medication so supply chain stakeholders can see exactly where each has been. DSCSA 2023 is all about complete unit-level serialization through the use of product identifiers, meaning stakeholders will have to electronically track products at the individual package level. Here are the six requirements for DSCSA 2023 laid out in Section 582(g)(1):

  1. Authorized trading partners must exchange transaction information (TI) and a transaction statement (TS) in a secure, interoperable, electronic manner.

TI includes the product name; its strength and dosage form; its National Drug Code; container size and number of containers; lot number; transaction date; shipment date; and the name and address of the businesses from which and to which ownership is being transferred. The TS is an attestation by the business transferring ownership of the product that it has complied with the DSCSA.

Trading partners must maintain all transaction data for 6 years.

The law requires the standards for interoperable exchange of TI to “comply with a form and format developed by a widely recognized international standards development organization.” Right now, EPCIS 4 (Electronic Product Code Information Services) is the only standard that meets this requirement; however, the industry is investigating alternatives.

  1. TI must include the product identifier (PI) at the package level for each package included in the transaction.

The upshot of this requirement is unit-level traceability (i.e., serialization). A PI is a standardized graphic that contains the product’s standardized numerical identifier (SNI), a lot number, and an expiration date. The SNI comprises two data points: the National Drug Code and a unique alphanumeric serial number. PIs must be human- and machine-readable.

  1. Authorized trading partners must have systems and processes to verify products at the package level, including the SNI.

According to the definition in Section 581 of the DSCSA, “verification” or “verify” means determining if the PI “affixed to, or imprinted upon, a package or homogeneous case corresponds to the SNI or lot number and expiration assigned to the product by the manufacturer or the repackager.”

  1. Authorized trading partners must have the systems and processes to promptly respond with the TI and TS for a product upon a request by the Secretary (or other appropriate federal or state official) in the event of a recall or for the purposes of investigating a suspect or illegitimate product.

The “Secretary” here is the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Suspect and illegitimate products include drugs that may be counterfeit, diverted, stolen, intentionally adulterated, or unfit for distribution.

This requirement dovetails with the FDA’s push for modernization of the U.S. food supply chain, including recall processes.

  1. Authorized trading partners must have the systems and processes necessary to promptly facilitate gathering the information necessary to produce the TI for each transaction going back to the manufacturer.

This requirement is similar to No. 4 in that authorized trading partners must provide this information to the FDA commissioner or other federal or state officials; however, goes a step further by adding trading partners. The law says these systems and processes

“shall be required in the event of a request by an authorized trading partner, in a secure manner that ensures the protection of confidential commercial information and trade secrets, for purposes of investigating a suspect product or assisting the Secretary (or other appropriate Federal or State official) with a request described in clause.”

  1. Each person accepting a saleable return must have systems and processes in place to allow acceptance the product(s). Furthermore, they may accept saleable returns only if they can associate the returned product(s) with its TI and TS.

This has to do with the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement and the Verification Router Service (VRS). Supply chain stakeholders must verify saleable returns before they can be reintroduced to the supply chain; they do this by verifying the drug’s PI. The VRS is the system they use to rapidly verify PIs.

rfxcel is the industry leader in the VRS. We led an FDA-approved pilot to extend testing of the VRS and continue to focus on making it ready for DSCSA 2023. Here a few of our resources to answer any questions you may have:

Final thoughts

As we said in Part 1, we’ve been covering the DSCSA for a long, long time. We’ve done webinars, written white papers, and been active in industry initiatives, particularly the VRS and the Open Credentialing Initiative (OCI) to meet the requirements for DSCSA authorized trading partners.

We’ve also been helping pharma companies comply with the DSCSA and other pharma regulations around the world. From our rfxcel Serialization Processing and Compliance Management solutions to the full-scale power of our rfxcel Traceability System, we ensure compliance no matter your role in the supply chain.

So contact us with your questions about DSCSA 2023 or the DSCSA in general. Our supply chain experts can give you a short demonstration of our solutions, share their insights and knowledge, and work with you to ensure you’re compliant today, tomorrow — always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FDA Delays Enforcement of DSCSA Saleable Returns Requirement

Note: For the latest industry reaction to the FDA’s announcement, read our update here.

In a policy document published on October 23, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it was delaying enforcement of key aspects of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) that will affect wholesale distributors and dispensers. The regulations were due to go into effect on November 27 of this year; now they won’t be enforced until November 27, 2023.

The delay, the second since 2019, pertains to the requirement to verify saleable returns under the DSCSA law. It also included guidance for wholesale distributors concerning transaction statements under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).

Here are the details.

Wholesale distributors: product identifiers

The FDA announced that it did “not intend to take action against” wholesale distributors that did not verify product identifiers before further distributing returned products as required under the DSCSA.

It explained that wholesale distributors, other trading partners, and stakeholders had expressed concern about industry readiness to implement the Saleable Returns Verification Requirement since the delay in November 2019. Specifically:

  • Challenges developing interoperable, electronic systems to enable verification and achieve interoperability between networks
  • More time needed to test verification systems using real-time volumes of returned product with all trading partners
  • Significant delays testing verification systems due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially because logistics and supply chain experts were reassigned from DSCSA preparation to responding to the pandemic

Wholesale distributors: transaction statements

The FDA also addressed transaction statements under the FD&C Act. This is a little complicated, so we’ll take it one step at a time.

Section 582 of the FD&C Act requires manufacturers, repackagers, wholesale distributors, and dispensers to exchange transaction information, transaction history, and a transaction statement — known collectively as “T3 information” — for transactions involving certain prescription drugs.

Section 581 of the FD&C Act requires transaction statements to include a statement that the entity transferring ownership — wholesale distributors in this case — had systems and processes in place to comply with verification requirements under Section 582.

Now, “prior to November 27, 2023, [the] FDA does not intend to take action against” wholesale distributors whose transaction statements do not include the statement required under Section 581. See pp. 7–8 of today’s announcement for full details about this change.

Distributors & Dispensers: product identifiers for suspect/illegitimate products

Distributors have also received a 3-year reprieve concerning requirements for product identifiers. The FDA said it did “not intend to take action against distributors that do not verify product identifiers prior to further distributing returned product.

Furthermore, the FDA won’t take action against dispensers that “do not verify the statutorily designated portion of product identifiers of suspect or illegitimate product before November 27, 2023.” Section 582 of the FD&C Act stipulates how dispensers must investigate suspect and illegitimate products.

Final thoughts

If you’re a wholesale distributor or dispenser and have questions about these changes to the saleable returns verification requirement — or anything else about the DSCSA — we can help. rfxcel is the industry thought leader in DSCSA compliance, including the Verification Router Service (VRS), and we are ready to help you make the most of this extra time.

Contact us today and our supply chain experts will show you how our award-winning rfxcel Traceability System will fully prepare you for the DSCSA. We’ll answer your questions, address your concerns, and customize a solution that will ensure you’re compliant. The extra breathing room is nice, but the time to act is now.

DSCSA 2020: November Is Coming & It’s Time to Comply

Note: The FDA has delayed enforcement of the DSCSA for dispensers and wholesale distributors. Read the details here.

The next deadline for the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) is November 27. That means there’s only a little more than a month to comply. DSCSA 2020 means different things to different stakeholders. Here’s what you have to do if you’re a dispenser or a wholesale distributor.

DSCSA 2020 for dispensers (pharmacies, clinics, hospitals, healthcare systems, etc.)

If you’re a dispenser — an independent pharmacy or a pharmacy in a hospital, clinic, grocery store, or anywhere else — DSCSA 2020 means that you must be able to authenticate and verify all the medicines you buy before you can sell them to consumers.

You must meet two key requirements by November 27:

  1. You can buy and sell only products encoded with product identifiers (PIs). A PI contains a lot number, an expiration date, and the product’s standardized numerical identifier (SNI). The SNI includes the National Drug Code and a unique alphanumeric serial number.
  2. You must verify every product at the package level, including the SNI.

Because the clock is ticking and we want to help, our DSCSA Strategic Advisor Brian Files is hosting a special DSCSA 2020 Q&A session this Thursday, Oct. 15, at 12 p.m. PST/3 p.m. EST. Send your questions today, and Brian will answer them in this live Zoom event.

If you haven’t begun to prepare, Brain will tell you it’s critical to start now. Contact us. We have a proven a track record of success with DSCSA compliance. We have in-house DSCSA experts who will analyze your needs, explain what you need to do, and build a scalable solution tailored to your operations.

Also keep in mind that you must also be able to exchange “T3” information about every drug you buy and who handled it each time it changes ownership in the United States. T3 information” includes Transaction Information (TI) about a product (e.g., proprietary or established name or names and the strength and dosage form); Transaction History (TH), an electronic statement with the TI for every transaction going back to the manufacturer; and a Transaction Statement (TS), which is an electronic statement confirming the entity transferring ownership. We know all about T3 information. Read more about it here.

DSCSA 2020 for wholesale distributors

If you’re a wholesale distributor, DSCSA 2020 means must verify returned products before you can reintroduce them to the supply chain. You’ll do this through the Verification Router Service (VRS), an automated system that verifies if a PI is valid. You’ll initiate a verification request to a manufacturer to verify the PI of the returned product.

There are multiple VRS providers, and each is responsible for determining if a specific group of PIs is valid.  You can call any VRS provider to verify if a PI is valid, but if they do not manage the PI in question, they will automatically route your verification request to the provider that does. All of this happens in real time, and VRS ensures that information is accurate and up to date.

rfxcel is the thought leader in the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement and the VRS. We implemented a VRS pilot for the Food and Drug Administration and extended industry testing of the VRS. Contact us today, and we’ll share our expertise in supply chain track and trace, serialization, and compliance solutions to make sure you’re ready for DSCSA 2020. We’ll also be happy to share our final report about the FDA pilot.

Final thoughts

The DSCSA was enacted to promote patient and consumer safety by facilitating product tracing in the pharma supply chain and ensuring the authenticity of products. DSCSA 2020 is the next step in verifying drugs.

November 27 will be here before you know it. If you’re a dispenser or a wholesale distributor, we can help. Reach out to us now and our supply chain experts will show you how our award-winning rfxcel Traceability System can ensure you comply with DSCSA 2020.

DSCSA Saleable Returns Verification Requirement: Just the Facts

Note: On October 23, 2020, the FDA delayed enforcement of the DSCSA for dispensers and wholesale distributors. Read the details here.

The Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) is transforming every aspect of the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain. The law has many parts, but today we’re focusing on the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement, one of its key mandates. Let’s jump right in.

First, what is the DSCSA?

The DSCSA went into effect on November 27, 2013. It is actually Title II of the Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA) and calls for product tracing, product identifiers (PIs), authorized trading partners, and verification requirements for manufacturers, wholesale distributors, repackagers, and dispensers (pharmacies).

The goal of the DSCSA is to facilitate product tracing in the pharmaceutical supply chain and, ultimately, promote patient and consumer safety and ensure the authenticity of products. Non-compliance is “prohibited … and subject to enforcement action under the [Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act].” In a nutshell, if you’re out of compliance, you’re out of business.

What is the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement?

Millions of pharmaceutical products are returned for resale every year in the United States. These are known as “saleable returns.” Under the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement, wholesalers must verify saleable returns before they can be reintroduced to the supply chain. In other words, every returned drug has to be vetted — declared as safe and legitimate — before it can be sold again. This is accomplished by verifying the drug’s PI, which has four components: a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), a unique serial number, a lot ID, and an expiration date.

The DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement for distributors was originally scheduled to take effect on November 27, 2019; however, as we discussed in a previous blog post, the FDA in late September 2019 announced that it did “not intend to take action against” wholesalers that did not meet the requirement before November 27, 2020. This 1-year postponement gave pharma supply chain stakeholders more time to prepare to comply.

Of course, November 27, 2020, is only a few months away. Are you going to be ready? More on that below.

How does the DSCSA saleable returns requirement work?

The easiest way to understand the DSCSA saleable returns requirement is to think of the U.S. pharma supply chain as having only two members: wholesalers and manufacturers. And the law requires them to talk with one another about returned drugs. Here’s what we mean.

To meet the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement, a wholesaler must initiate a verification request (to a manufacturer) to verify the returned products before it can resell them. The manufacturer that receives that request must provide a verification response within 24 hours. This is why wholesalers are called requestors and manufacturers are called responders.

The 24-hour deadline, however, doesn’t meet business realities. Why? Because, as we mentioned above, millions and millions of drugs are returned every year. The volume is just too great. Therefore, wholesalers need manufacturers to provide verification responses almost instantaneously — at the sub-second level, not in a few minutes, let alone an entire day.

Enter the Verification Router Service (VRS).

The VRS and the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement

VRS is a huge topic, and to get into the details is outside the scope of what we’re talking about today. Put simply, the VRS enables the rapid, secure exchange of data between requestors and responders to meet the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement.

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) is the driving force behind the VRS, which facilitates the “talk” between wholesalers (requestors) and manufacturers (responders) to verify every drug. Here, a third member joins the DSCSA saleable returns “family”: A solution provider that enables the verification requests to be routed between wholesalers and manufacturers.

The VRS is an automated service that verifies if a PI is valid. There are multiple VRS providers, and each is responsible for determining if a specific group of PIs is valid. A wholesaler can call any VRS provider to verify if a PI is valid. If a provider does not manage that particular PI, it will automatically route the verification request to the appropriate provider. All of this happens in real time, and the VRS ensures that information is accurate and up to date.

Final thoughts

rfxcel is the industry thought leader in the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement and the VRS. Not only did we extend testing of VRS, we implemented a VRS pilot program for the Food and Drug Administration. We’re applying our expertise in supply chain track and trace, serialization, and compliance solutions to help the pharma industry prepare for November.

And we can help you too. Contact us today to talk with one of our supply chain experts and see how our award-winning rfxcel Traceability System can ensure you comply with the DSCSA saleable returns verification requirement — and meet all your other supply chain needs.

CONTACT US TO SEE THE VRS SOLUTION AND FDA TEST RESULTS:


New GS1 Guidance for Product Identifiers in the DSCSA Saleable Returns Verification Requirement

On March 31, GS1 released new guidance concerning product identifiers (PIs) in the DSCSA Saleable Returns Verification Requirement. The 60-page document describes different scenarios for how pharma supply chain stakeholders can treat the PI status of a returned serialized product in the Verification Router Service (VRS).

Let’s take a look at what new GS1 guidance says about dealing with PIs.

The Basics of the DSCSA Saleable Returns Verification Requirement

The DSCSA Saleable Returns Verification Requirement says that wholesale distributors must verify the PIs on sealed homogeneous cases or packages before they can resell a returned product. This went into effect on November 27, 2019. However, as we reported last September, the FDA delayed enforcement by one year to allow additional time for industry readiness.

The PI contains a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), a serial number, a lot ID, and an expiration date (for the lot).

In a nutshell, the VRS has requestors and responders. A requestor, often a wholesale distributor, sends a verification request to a responder, usually a manufacturer. The VRS routes the request to the appropriate responder for verification of the PI against its repository. The responder returns the following values:

    • Response status: Do all four components of the PI match?
    • Failure reason: If they don’t match, why?
    • Other information about the PI status: This can be used to identify concerns about the product (e.g., if it has been recalled or is suspect).

A strict interpretation of the DSCSA provides a verification “pass” or “fail” based only on matching all four PI elements. In other words, the DSCSA does not require a responder to consider the PI status as part of its verification. However, many manufacturers believe the PI status must be considered. This is why GS1 developed its new guidance for PIs in the DSCSA Saleable Returns Verification Requirement.

What the GS1 Guidance Says

The guidance describes seven scenarios for saleable return responses, summarized below. For full details, contact us and review the GS1 guidance.

SCENARIO A: The PI matches the manufacturer’s repository and there is no information to indicate that the product is unfit for distribution. The product is verified for resale.

SCENARIO B1: The PI matches. However, the manufacturer has reason to believe the product is recalled/withdrawn or expired. The product DOES pass verification for resale (based on the manufacturer’s internal policy) and the manufacturer provides “Recalled” or “Expired” as additional information in the Output Response.

SCENARIO B2: Same as B1, but the product DOES NOT pass verification for resale (based on the manufacturer’s internal policy) and the manufacturer provides “Recalled” or “Expired” as additional information in the Output Response.

SCENARIO C1: The PI matches, but the manufacturer has reason to believe the product is suspect. The product DOES NOT pass verification for resale and the manufacturer provides “Not_for_re-distribution” as a reason for the failure with “Suspect” as additional information in the Output Response.

SCENARIO C2: The PI matches, but the manufacturer has reason to believe the product is unfit for distribution. The product DOES NOT pass verification for resale and the manufacturer provides “Manufacturer_policy” as a reason for the failure without additional information in the Output Response.

SCENARIO D: The PI DOES NOT match. The product DOES NOT pass verification for resale and the manufacturer provides “No_reason_provided” as a reason for the failure.

SCENARIO E: The PI DOES NOT match. The product DOES NOT pass verification for resale. In addition to “No_reason_provided,” there are four other possible reasons the manufacturer can give for the PI mismatch in the Output Response:

    1. “No_match_GTIN_Serial”
    2. “No_match_GTIN_Serial_Lot_Expiry”
    3. “No_match_GTIN_Serial_Lot”
    4. “No_match_GTIN_Serial_Expiry”

Final thoughts

As of May 6, 2020, rfxcel is the only VRS provider to comply with the updated GS1 specifications and fully support all of its scenarios and response options. We also implemented the FDA’s VRS pilot. When you work with us, you’ll know you’re working with the industry’s foremost authority on VRS and the DSCSA Saleable Returns Verification Requirement.

Contact us today to speak with one of our supply chain experts. We can help you understand the intricacies of VRS and the DSCSA, how they might affect your business, and how to be fully prepared for compliance now and always.