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Medication Labels May Soon Include Unique Bar Codes

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to unveil regulations this summer that, if implemented, will require bar codes unique to a specific medication and its strength on all prescription drug labels. The agency's proposal is designed to help reduce medication errors that, according to a National Academy of Sciences report, result in at least 10,000 deaths each year.

The FDA's statement of regulatory priorities notes that "Medication errors are a significant economic cost to the United States" and are among the most preventable of all medical errors.

This has been a hot topic in recent years, after the release of the Institute of Medicine's 1999 report, "To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System." The report recommends that health care organizations implement systems that will ensure safe practices at the point of care.

The bar code would contain the product's NDC number, and could provide such additional data as a product's expiration date or lot number.

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