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The wider policy perspective of bar coding medicines to the single dose
  1. Richard Price, EAHP Policy and Advocacy Officer
  1. Correspondence to Richard Price, European Association of Hospital Pharmacists, 3 Rue Abbe Cuypers, Brussels 1040, Belgium; po{at}

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The European Commission recently concluded a consultation on a system to uniquely identify medicines in the supply chain to prevent counterfeit product intrusion. The European Association of Hospital Pharmacists (EAHP) called for a proportionate system to be put in place in relation to the level of counterfeit risk in hospitals but also a system that facilitates the bar coding of medicines to the single dose administered in hospitals.

Since 1987, barcoding of single dose medicines has been a policy objective of EAHP because of the clear benefits it brings to patient safety. Some studies suggest it can reduce medication errors by as much as 40%1 and it was a central recommendation of the Council of Europe's expert group ‘Safe Medication Practices’ in 2006.2 EAHP policy on barcoding of single dose medicines has been renewed in 2007 and 2011.

The recent European Commission consultation on medicines traceability provided a fresh opportunity for EAHP to spell out in full the benefits of bar coding of single dose medicines administered in hospitals. EAHP explained to the Commission that the benefits extend to patient safety, error reduction, and more widely, health service management and system improvement.

The primary patient safety benefit

Errors with medication are considered to be one of the most common cause of preventable adverse events within the healthcare system. It is therefore imperative to continually examine measures that can be put in place to reduce their likelihood. A system for the complete identification of a medicine up to the point of administration will almost self-evidently be able to …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed