How are barcodes used in pharmaceutical labeling?

Like in many industries, the main concept of barcodes in the pharmaceutical industry is also to provide important tracking information and identification capabilities. By encoding key data which can be accessed by medical professionals upon the use of a handheld scanner, the correct medication can be dispensed to patients without sharing confidential data.

Unlike many standard barcode uses, pharmaceutical labeling requires a more intricate barcode style which is highly sensitive to the size of the barcode and the print color, suiting the packaging design which is often on a small scale. To create standardization across the industry, the specifications of a pharmaceutical barcode include a format that sees the first three digits being an identifier of the company that manufactured the product, the next two identifying the product itself, and the last digit used as a check digit for error detection

Arguably the most important factor of a pharmaceutical barcode is its size. With such limited space being available on drug packaging, the barcode must be small enough to fit whilst large enough to be scannable. Regulated standards mean the size of the barcode must be the same across all packaging, allowing for trustworthy digital readings that can be taken quickly and easily. Although there are certain exemptions, the majority of pharmaceutical barcodes remain consistent across the market.

Another key factor is the color of the barcode, using colors that can be read by digital scanners. Whatever the design of a label, the background color of the barcode must be carefully considered to provide enough contrast for the scanner to be able to pick it up clearly. Without significant contrast, the reader may not be able to scan the label and making the product unsuitable for sale.

To prevent risks such as incorrect product identifications or wrongly dispatched product orders, the accuracy of barcodes on pharmaceutical labels is paramount, keeping a smooth supply chain running. High-quality printing is a key part of pharmaceutical label production, ensuring the information and barcode are clearly visible at all times and the quality does not deteriorate over time. To ensure this is the case, regular testing should be carried out to confirm that barcodes are being correctly picked up by scanners and include up-to-date information.


View all Pharmaceutical Labeling Q&A


Free Samples

Get samples of our most popular products so you can see the quality before you buy.

Other FREE Resources:

Helpful Resources