A call for cross-industry action to achieve 100% barcoding for single unit packaging

The evidence is there: barcode scanning when administering medications at the patient bedside can save lives. While much of the scanning technology is in place, it is required that drugs are now identified and barcoded on the primary packaging level, the blister, the ampoule etc. Please see the GS1 Healthcare position paper here.

Tjalling van der Schors, Pharm.D., Director of Pharmacy at WestfriesGasthuis Hospital in the Netherlands, called on pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, pharmacies, insurance companies and governments to work together to address this critical patient safety issue.

Mr. van der Schors, who is also president of the Dutch Association of Hospital Pharmacists (NVZA), presented how implementing scanning at the point-of-care can significantly reduce the number of administration errors in hospitals.

He pointed out how the Food and Drug Administration’s mandate for barcoding at the primary package (single unit package) level helped drive the use of barcode-assisted medication administration in the U.S. to 88.4% by 2014. While the EU’s Falsified Medicines Directive requires manufacturers to apply unique identifiers to pharmaceutical drugs at the secondary package level, the NVZA, in its policy paper, states that all medications used in hospitals should have a unique identifier in a GS1 DataMatrix barcode applied at the single unit package level.

The most efficient approach for achieving this goal is for pharmaceutical companies—at the point of production—to apply barcodes. Yet, a joint effort by all healthcare stakeholders is needed to stimulate action and move forward with a sense of urgency.

A cost-benefit analysis conducted by NVZA estimated that 47 deaths could be prevented in the Netherlands each year along with other tangible benefits related to productivity and improved outpatient compliance.

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