REVIEWER: James Blake, vice president of Information Technology, IPC.


BACKGROUND: IPC is the largest group purchasing organization for independent pharmacies in the U.S. Headquartered in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, the company represents 3,200 primary and 2,500 affiliate pharmacy members. In addition to serving as the distribution facility for these stores, IPC processes orders, tracks rebates, negotiates bulk purchasing agreements and supplies sales analytics to its members.


HARDWARE PLATFORMS: IBM AS/400 legacy system with newer applications created with Microsoft .NET programming; Microsoft Dynamics AX enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to be implemented in phases to replace the AS/400 system.


PROBLEM SOLVED: In an effort to curb pharmaceutical drug counterfeiting, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that drug wholesalers must track the pedigree of all pharmaceutical products dispensed in retail pharmacies from the point of sale to the pharmaceutical manufacturer, including dates, names of parties involved and addresses of the transactions. Meeting this obligation requires detailed tracking of each bottle of drugs that passes through IPC warehouses - with a consequent impact on several key information systems.


PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We used iWay to create a new e-pedigree system that can manage, route and store electronic documents detailing the chain of custody for all pharmaceuticals. Within the iWay environment, data can be integrated with more than 200 information sources, including relational and nonrelational databases, transaction systems, custom or packaged applications, message-oriented middleware, XML documents and EDI networks. Each iWay adapter consists of a communications interface, an SQL translator and a database interface that translates ANSI SQL into native API calls.


STRENGTHS: Because iWay has such a high-level, object-oriented design process, it’s possible to develop new interfaces very rapidly, with little or no code. We completed an X12 EDI implementation in just a few days. Most of the iWay agents, adapters and listeners behave exactly the same way, so once you learn how the software works, it’s more or less plug and play. If it’s a standardized transaction set, it’s surprisingly easy to do without any coding. It’s just a matter of a few days of development.


WEAKNESSES: We’re a .NET organization, and iWay is primarily a Java product, so figuring out how to integrate our .NET applications the way we wanted to was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, iWay developed a custom agent to get us up and running.


SELECTION CRITERIA: While some wholesale pharmaceutical distributors deployed software packages to meet the FDA e-pedigree requirements, we deemed that implementing a custom solution would be more cost-effective - with long-term benefits to the business. We wanted more than just a one-off solution to this particular business problem, so we opted for a general-purpose integration environment. While many companies use this type of software merely to map dissimilar data types and facilitate more efficient data interchange, we saw that we could use iWay as a business process control agent.


DELIVERABLES: We used iWay to create a drug tracking system. It translates routing rules and streamlines the e-pedigree workflow via XML standards. Now, when pharmaceutical wholesalers send product data to IPC, the drug tracking system automatically ties that data to a purchase order. iWay matches the purchase order with a shipping notice, then sends back a confirmation of the transaction. After the wholesaler verifies that the correct manufacturer is listed, IPC updates its pharmaceutical database. We also used iWay to create an e-commerce system that uses X12 transactions and the EPC global set. Standardizing on iWay has positioned IPC to replicate just about any process flow extremely easily. For example, we plan to use iWay to control the flow of orders between our AS/400 environment and our .NET environment. As transactions occur on the AS/400, we can use iWay to create XML documents, convert them to the Dynamics AX format, then route them to the new ERP system for processing.


VENDOR SUPPORT: Two senior iWay engineers provided on-site consulting and mentoring during the e-pedigree development process. They helped us speed up the traditional translations of ordinary X12/EDI transactions, then updated their system to address our specific industry standard.


DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is complete, although some of the terminology is a little confusing for novice users. The latest release appears to be more user-friendly.


iWay Adapter Technology
Information Builders Inc.
Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10121-2898
(212) 736-4433

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