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Bar Codes For Prescribed Drugs

The medical mistakes are responsible for the deaths of up to 98,000 Americans annually, and that medication errors are among the most frequent of these mistakes. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will propose a rule that would require drugmakers to put bar codes on their products in an effort to reduce the incidence of medical errors. //

The proposal is largely aimed at preventing medication errors in hospitals. The idea is to have drugs, including those that are packaged in single doses, marked with bar codes that could be matched to bar codes on patients' hospital identification bracelets to prevent giving the wrong dose or the wrong medicine.

The bar codes would include such information as a unique product code number, a lot number and an expiration date. Such information would not only facilitate matching, but would aid in recalling products when necessary. The Department of Veterans Affairs health system has already moved to purchase bar code scanning systems, but is being hampered because most products still lack the codes. Such a proposal could be technically challenging, but potentially time-consuming and very expensive.


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