Ensuring Barcode Accuracy from Packaging to the Patient

by Reuben Malz

 

Barcodes have changed very little over the last 60 years. For pharmaceutical companies, the barcode has taken on a vital role throughout the product’s lifecycle from original packaging to in hospital unit dose identification.

For pharmaceutical companies, a barcode helps to assure the origins of the drugs, which in turn helps in minimizing the possibility of genuine drugs being considered sub-standard or counterfeit. Many nations are also passing legislative initiatives making it mandatory for pharmaceutical companies to affix barcodes on all primary level packaging.

For healthcare providers, the barcode on pharmaceutical packaging plays a critical role in the management of the patient. These barcodes can dramatically reduce the possibility medication administration errors as well as give the provider an exact record of the patient’s medicinal intake.

Linear barcodes are the most common type of barcode used on pharmaceutical packaging. For medications, the linear barcode typically contains the 10-digit National Drug Code (NDC) number that identifies the manufacturer, product, and package size. However, a healthcare provider may also use its own unique barcode to point to a much larger descriptor of the item.

Beyond what the eye can see

During the packaging workflow, the difference in a correct barcode versus an incorrect barcode is often too subtle to be noticed by the human eye. Even a barcode that appears correct may not be able to scan properly. The end result is that any error in the barcode may cost the pharmaceutical company millions of dollars in recalls as well as millions more in liability claims and loss of reputation.

 

Moving forward

At the healthcare provider level technology will make the barcode even more vital for the pharmaceutical industry. Healthcare providers are currently testing medication administration technologies (MATs) to ensure the patient’s safety by linking the barcode to the patient’s electronic health records. If this new technology is widely adopted, then pharmaceutical companies will most likely face stiffer penalties for not meeting barcode specifications on the packaging.

 

For over 25 years GlobalVision has been the industry leader in barcode quality control technologies, their knowledge of the pharmaceutical workflow process has given them unique insight into the critical role of the barcode as a packaging element.

Barproof  automatically locates all barcodes on a label, carton or press sheet and grades each according to CEN/ANSI/ISO standards and even inspects and decodes QR, linear, 1D and 2D barcodes. BarProof is also available as an app with the Quality Control Platform.

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