Patient Safety
JUN 5, 2019

Improving Patient Safety Through Color

Medication errors remain to be a major concern for pharmaceutical manufacturers despite the attention, process changes and technological advances that have been focused on eradicating them.  As more medications are approved for use and enter the market, the opportunity for potentially dangerous or even fatal errors continues to rise. 

Distinctive color on medication labeling can be a valuable resource for protecting patient safety.  When used appropriately, color serves as a communication tool and benefits patience adherence, serialization, regulatory and marketing efforts.  In addition to reducing the risk of illegal counterfeit drugs, the use of color on labels can support both the need for language regulations and clarity.  Color labels can also enhance tracking, maintain expiry dates and reduce potential misunderstandings in regards to inventory management and product assembly. 

Brand managers often use color where confusion or errors are most persistent.  Specifically, color is easily incorporated onto medication labels to:

  • Identify drug names – allows for quick differentiation between drugs and makes the medication easily identifiable
  • Highlight dosages and concentrations – brings attention to various strengths within a particular product and prevents accidental overdose
  • Emphasize dispensing and administration instructions – adds clarity and is especially useful for syringes or medication that is administered in a non-standard way
  • Communicate warnings and identify toxic materials – protects both patients and healthcare professionals from potential administration or handling hazards
  • Convey special storage, handling or disposal requirements – helps ensure proper storage, reduces waste and prevent exposure to dangerous materials
  • Consolidate auxiliary label inventory (e.g. expiration date, refrigerated storage, etc.) – saves healthcare professionals time from having to apply additional labels, eliminates the chance the extra packaging will be forgotten, and saves the cost of maintaining additional inventories 

It’s evident color is a space-effective way to highlight important information on medication, syringe and vial labels.  However, the key is to use color selectively and effectively – meaning that that number of colors should be limited.  It should be noted that overuse of color, for instance, can lessen its impact.  In addition, the chance for confusing a color and its meaning increases as more colors are introduced onto a package.  A final concern is over-reliance on color coding.  That is, some fear health professionals will rely on color as the primary method for identifying a medication, rather than reading the entire drug label. 

And of course, it’s imperative that pharmaceutical companies partner with trusted packaging suppliers to ensure their printed products meet established brand owner standards concerning color.  Gintzler International–NY is GMI certified, proving we have the necessary expertise in process control, production and documentation of our procedures to produce consistent packaging on a regular basis. 

While color is not the ultimate solution for eliminating medication errors, pharmaceutical manufacturers continue to incorporate color into their systems and processes with the ultimate goal of enhancing patient safety.

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