New Guidelines for Pharmaceutical Bar Codes

The Healthcare Distribution Management Association (HDMA) has just updated their guide for formatting, encoding, and placing bar codes on pharmaceuticals. The HDMA is the USA’s association representing primary healthcare distributors, and their aim is the safe and efficient distribution of healthcare products and services. 

As part of their mission, the HDMA creates and exchanges industry knowledge and best practices to enhance the value of the healthcare supply chain. Their new guide, “HDMA Guidelines for Bar Coding in the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain 2011” has recently been published to give manufacturers and repackagers the latest information on applying GS1 and HIBCC standard bar codes to packages, cases, and pallets.

The new guide explains how to apply the standards to identify drugs at all levels of packaging as they move through the supply chain. It also has expanded guidance on the use of 2D bar codes and RFID on packages and shipping containers. Previous editions of the guidelines had recommendations on linear bar code technology only, but the recent changes to imaging equipment – better performance and lower cost – have prompted their recommendations for 2D bar coding as well.

Some significant changes you will find include:

  • The addition of a unique serial number in the GS1-128 product identification bar code to product case labels
  • A recommendation to add an optional 2D GS1 DataMatrix bar code symbol to drug packages and product cases
  • A reduction in the bar code dimensions, thus freeing up space on labels for serial numbers
  • New information on standardized numerical identifiers (SNIs)

Although the HDMA does not enforce compliance with their guidelines for product case labels, compliance would greatly improve efficiency and accuracy in the pharmaceutical supply chain. If you need more information on the HDMA, or would like a complete list of their guidelines, visit their website.


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