MAR 6, 2019

How to Avoid Unusable Barcodes

New regulations are requiring that pharmaceutical packages be marked with the product’s lot number, expiration date, national drug code (NDC), and a unique serial number.  The data must be both human and machine readable, meaning that barcodes must successfully scan and contain all required data elements. 

When poorly printed or damaged barcodes result in failures, loss of data can have disastrous effects on product integrity and corporate reputation, not to mention legal implications and serious risks to consumer welfare. 

Now is the time to evaluate your packages and address any deficiencies.  Reference guidance documents offered by regulatory agencies.  Send samples of artwork and barcodes to distributors for preventive analysis and comment.  In addition, follow these fundamental guidelines to avoid unusable barcodes: 

  • Colors - Some manufacturers are attempting to make their barcode blend in with their overall marketing theme by printing it in a brand color on their packaging.  While this may work in some instances, it often does not.  Ensure any colors you use are compatible with scanners and that there is enough contrast between the code and the background.  The best readability of a barcode comes from black on white.  Anything other than that – including white on black – is less than optimal. 
  • Size - Ensure your barcode is large enough to be read.  If the size of the actual product presents a challenge, consider using an extended content label that allows for more space to accommodate the barcode. 
  • Placement - Barcodes that are printed too close together make it difficult for scanners to read the intended code.  Avoid quiet zone violations, or space around the barcode, to ensure nothing interferes with the ability of a scanner to work properly. 
  • Data Content - Ensure all of the mandated data elements are present, and that the information is encoded correctly. 
  • Print Quality - Poor print quality, including smudging, can cause major headaches for drug manufacturers.  Avoid unnecessary hassle by partnering with an experienced label printer.  Gintzler International – NY has achieved ISO 13485:2016 certification and has extensive experience printing pharmaceutical labels.  We have the tools in-house to scan codes and are equipped to meet the stringent quality and service requirements of the pharmaceutical industry.

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