Jim Chrzan, the Associate Publisher at Packaging World recently reported about the outcome of a poll which asked nurses to identify the leading causes of medication error. Not surprisingly, as reported by Mr. Chrzan, the poll revealed this: Sixty percent of nurses polled identified look-a-like drugs and packaging as the sixth-leading cause of medication errors.
Reacting to this, Mr. Chrzan makes a statement that in the not too distant past would have been considered indisputable: I do not think I am naïve enough to believe we can get drug companies to change their packaging even if 2 of their own drugs look alike, let alone tackle identification problems between competitors. One potential solution he proposes is this: How about one extra yellow label per package–Most Commonly Confused With: _____________________.
Yet, as useful as an extra yellow label might be, Mr. Chrzan does acknowledge the potential benefits of standardized track, trace and authentication methods. Better track and trace from the hospital pharmacy, where the wrong drug would be caught while swiping the bar code before administering to patient, is another, more high tech, more sophisticated and more expensive approach… With drug dispensing and authentication, errors would be easier to report…
He’s not wrong, of course. I’m just not sure that packaging professionals are fully aware that healthcare products and device manufacturers are way out in front of this product identification, authentication, and track and trace issue and thinking way beyond just the movement of a medication from the hospital pharmacy to the patient’s bedside. And, I would take issue with anyone’s analysis implying that global healthcare product identification standards are too expensive. Yes, it’s true that barcode and scanner systems cost money. But that expense has to be contrasted with the cost of medication errors, counterfeit drugs, supply chain inefficiencies and a host of other costly outcomes often driven by product identification systems unique to every product provider.
Frankly, almost all of the national and global manufacturers of healthcare products with which we work have an existing infrastructure of systems and business applications that can and do drive enterprise-wide product labeling solutions. And, the conversion of a proprietary label to a label that is compliant to a global standard like GS1, isn’t difficult to do.
You can see Mr. Chrzan’s article here.