Read More about Bar codes

The Coding Confusion

Why Barcode?

The Grocery supply chain uses a barcode for identifications of items in the supply chain and they have well established unique coding system accepted globally.

In the pharmaceutical industry the confusion and the chaos in choosing a unique global coding system for drug is the result of difference of opinion on why have a barcode in the pharmaceutical industry?

As late as 2007, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has "proposed" the supermarket-style barcodes on every medication for identification .The National Drug Code ( NDC) was used ( which consists ,of 10 digits identifying the labeler and the drug and the size)

While, the Europeans found that the code should carry also more information like the expiry date and the lot number…. And that required the use of high density barcode like data matrix , instead of the  American linear bar code .Again in 2010 the FDA issued a new guideline for coding

  • 1- Each drug pack at the smallest package (saleable unit) Shall carry a unique identifier SNI Standard Numeric identifier consisting of (NDC + SERIAL NUMBER) in form of RFID , or 2d Barcode
  • 2- a drug E-pedigree, initiated by the manufacturer, updated by stakeholders at each transaction with date and name and address of the new owner, and these records should be made available in interoperable at all levels and stages for complete traceability

the European also declared that by 2013 a unique serial number to be added to each individual package, which enables traceability down to the item level, and will enable tracking of every item from the manufacturer all the way to the retail pharmacy.. There are also formal guidelines for the order and presentation of the data to be in Data Matrix it is obvious that once you added the serialisaion down to item-level… then it totally unnessary to keep so much information in the barcode… and consequently, it is pointless using data matrix

The hospitals are using grocery coding system on your wrist,it is almost cosmetic use of Barcode See here Data
wrist bar code

This confusion will persist until the industry agrees on the purpose for using  Barcodes .There are too many codes., too many targets .Efforts are underway to find unified coding system for the medical industry, that still does not answer the question of why barcode? Is it for identification in the supply chain , or to  track and trace  of drugs  electronically or for verifications in  the medical care  chain , with aim of  reducing  the medical errors .. one should not expect more than what a barcode can achieve and avoid escalating the cost of drugs


Today ,there are three basic types of barcodes.. move mouse here

We carry a patent registered in Europe under brand "nanocom" for color barcode. however, Each type has its limitations.

The Grocery type is used by FDA, holds (NDC) it is only 10 digits code ,not sufficient to hold the badly needed expirey date of the medicine.although the data matrix holds enough information but the manufacturers are against it on the ground that it needs high resolution in-line printers to label the date or serial number .etc .The pharmacists find that unsuitable for POS(postion of sale) especially if the labels are stained or partially damaged which requires manual data entery of some 50 characters on spot ,or enter the reduced code .While hospitals think, barcoding is of limited use unless coding is done on Unite dose

The Color barcode: it is like data matrix in holding high density data and similar to the grocery barcode ,for being less    sensitive to bar damages. Additionally  it can be read with ordinary barcode reader and not CCD   scanner which is required to read data matrix and other high density .

Barcode readers

It is just simply a source of light and a light-sensor. The barcodes on the Packages are floaded with the light source and the sensor captures the reflection of the barcodes on the Packages and turns it into electric signals  .The signals are decoded into characters(digits) according to the signal pattern of (black=no-reflection=0 ,white=reflection=1, like the good old telex (peeping, 010110)
The barcode itself does not carry any information, it just carries a code Put it very simply:  It all depends on why do you want to use Barcodes .  Therefore ,the grocery-style is not an option, if you need the code to carry big information,  becauase it holds only 13 digits.
DataMatrix , is an option as  a solution for High density codes, but it is not suitable for POS However,even if the industry agrees on a type of a Barcode then they have to agree  on the  coding system ;there are too may pharmacopiea code (USP,British pharmacopea.. european phar..japan.. china..iraq and somalia ).Having sort that out , then the question of what to put in the code, the manufactering date, the expiry, the batch no., the generic name, the trade name...... then there  remains few little matters of -The cost of production will go up to print high resolution labels on vials and packs ,which  slows down production.
In Conclusion... why have high density barcode and carry redundant data ;. if we are using serialization, which points to the drug e-pedigree in the data repository which contains everything , including and not limited to, the packing list, the production date, the expiry date and the master file for the drug??????