Fewer unit-dosed, barcode ready drugs from the manufacturer?

I’ve noticed a trend over the past few months. Several medications that we typically purchase are no longer available in unit-dosed, barcode ready packaging. The result has been the purchase of more and more medications in bulk, which require repackaging and barcoding prior to dispensing. The reason for the trend is unclear, but appears to be a difference in opinion on what information should be contained in the barcode and what barcode standard to use. Even with organizations like ASHP encouraging manufacturers to develop standards and the FDA requiring barcodes on prescription medications, there appears to be a gap.

What does this all mean to pharmacy? Simply put, it means we have to find a way to get our medications barcoded and ready for dispensing to the patient in a safe and efficient way. Our solution (as part of our overall barcoding initiative) was to purchase an AutoPack automated packaging system from Talyst.

Our AutoPack automated packager
Our AutoPack automated packager

The packager we use is the big boy – 500 canister capacity – so we have plenty of room. When unit-dosed, barcode ready medications become unavailable or we decide packaging bulk items is cheaper, I simply contact Talyst and order a canister for the medication. If they have the canister in stock it’s usually on site in about four weeks time. If they have to custom build then canister (something I’ve had to do a couple of times) then it may take as long as eight weeks.

Following arrival the medication is added to the AutoPack database where the canister barcode and medication barcode are “married-up”. Then we place the canister in the packager and “poof”, you’re ready to package. The set-up for a new canister is quite simple and takes less than 5 minutes.

We currently have approximately 125 canisters in our AutoPack and are adding 1-2 new canisters per month. At that rate I will be retired before we outgrow the thing.

You can see more photos here.

4 thoughts on “Fewer unit-dosed, barcode ready drugs from the manufacturer?”

  1. hopefully you will get your cannister sooner if we have it in stock. Let me know how long it actually takes! Awesome article. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for checking in, Carla. I will let you know as soon as the canister arrives.
    Reminder for me: order date April, 27, 2009

  3. I checked with the Talyst Advisory Board and 4 out of 5 DOPs agree that
    “seeing unit dose barcoded meds at an all time high”. However, what is problematic is that the scanners currently used for bed-side scanning on administration are needing to be upgraded to more configurable (read expensive) models as manufacturer barcodes are evolving and you have to keep retraining the scanners to read them. We’ll keep an eye on the trend and see if we see something different in the next few months.

  4. @Carla C
    I agree, Carla. Scanners need to be upgraded to accommodate the more advanced barcodes that we will see in the near future. I’m already starting to see 2-D/2-D Stacked barcodes on a few unit-dosed medications from the manufacturer. It will be interesting to see how quickly this progresses. Healthcare needs a standard.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.