Laser etched bar-code may help curb counterfeit drugs, among other uses

One Nucleus: “The technique will allow faster identification and resolution of any manufacturing quality problems but will also prove invaluable as an anti-counterfeit measure because the specific coding and validation systems are almost impossible to copy.

Currently most components within diagnostic kits, medical devices and other healthcare products and equipment are ‘stamped’ with a lot code at the point of manufacture. However, these codes are of limited use for quality improvement unless products are produced in very small batches. As a result, regulatory bodies across the world are now putting manufacturers under increasing pressure to invest in much more sophisticated traceability systems, while manufacturers are looking for effective ways to prevent the growing problem of counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals and other healthcare products.

The breakthrough approaches being developed by Innomech will enable manufacturers to mark products with a code that is either unique to the item or shared by only a small number of items produced together.

The codemark is an unobtrusive two-dimensional dot matrix identifier that is linked to a look-up database. In effect the matrix code acts as a ‘key’ to access much more detailed information, such as the specific batch codes of raw materials used during production, the time of manufacture, the production line and so on. A version of the database could be accessible online for anyone to verify the item is genuine.

The codes can be printed or laser etched onto products, applied to virtually any substrate and can even be added onto the surface of pharmaceutical capsules or coated tablets. Matrix codes can be as small as 2 mm by 2 mm holding the code for up to 10 billion numbers. The codes can be read by widely available readers or in many cases from a picture taken with even the simplest camera phone, making them ideal in the battle against counterfeit medicines.”

This is an interesting approach to an age old problem. I wonder if this technology could be used to embed drug information directly on the medication as well, an idea that I hijacked from the Nursetopia website where Joni Watson muses that “Both companies and pharmacies could add a QR code/Microsoft Tag to the medication label for patients and/or healthcare professionals to scan and directly access the patient medication information sheet.” Why not put the QR code directly on the medication itself? Why not indeed.

3 thoughts on “Laser etched bar-code may help curb counterfeit drugs, among other uses”

  1. I first encountered the idea almost 15 years from Doug Gibson, then director of pharmacy at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue (my home town), asked me, “if we can get an “m” on m&m’s why can’t we get a bar code on a pill. Drug companies print their logos rather crisply. I’m sure size comes to play, not just for the real estate required, but also for handling by nurses. It’s probably easier to scan bar codes on blisters than is would be on tiny naked pills.

    Then there was the idea of putting RFID chips in pills. After all chips are are the size of a grain of sugar. Harmless to swallow I suppose. However, the chips require antennae—like the size of a dime. Hmm.

  2. I think the popularity of smartphones and bar-code content is driving a lot of what I’m reading lately. I agree that scanning a blister pack would be easier than scanning a small tablet, but it still raises some interesting possibilities. Pharmacists get a lot of requests to identify tablets, often from the ED. It sure would be nice to simply scan the tablet and have the identification show up on the screen. I can imagine EMTs in the field finding that useful as well.

    I’m a big fan of RFID, as you well know, but I can’t imagine putting them in a tablet. The idea kind of creeps me out. Know what I mean? I’ve been meaning to write something on RFID since attending the unSUMMIT earlier this year and hearing Dennis Tribble speak on the subject. Maybe it’s finally time to put pen to paper and hammer it out.

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