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Mandatory Bar Codes Planned for All Medicines Sold in India: How It Works

Studies have shown that about 25 per cent of drugs made in India are either counterfeit or substandard. Even popular brands are victims of this. This important step by the Health Ministry promises to ensure the authenticity of medicines.

To control the sale and purchase of counterfeit medicines in pharmacies and hospitals, the Union Health Ministry (UHM) is planning to take a new, more concrete step. To ensure that all the medicines, whether branded or otherwise, are authentic, the UHM is directing all manufacturers to add barcodes to their medicines from the primary stage.

Here are 9 points that you must know about this decision:

  • A 2015 report by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India revealed shocking numbers of the domestic pharmaceutical industries. About 25 per cent of drugs in India are either fake, counterfeit or substandard, they noted.
  • These fake drugs were available as popular medicines such as Betadine, Crocine, Voveran etc. To counter this, the UHM is planning to direct all Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) packages to use barcodes for their raw materials.This step, they believe, will make it easy for them to track imported and domestically-manufactured materials.
Representative image only. Source: NVinacco/ Flickr.
  • R Chandrashekhar, the Deputy Drugs Controller of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) told the LiveMint, “In current times, our major concern in the pharmaceutical market is [the] authenticity of drugs which is more important than traceability. In order to prevent counterfeit medicines in the country, we had proposed the idea of implementing barcoding back in 2015. Currently, this remains voluntary. But in the next phase of policy planning, we are planning to make it mandatory for all drug manufacturers to use barcoding in the domestic drug market as used in exports.”
  • At present, about 2500 APIs are used to make thousands of drugs using various combinations and 200 manufacturers voluntarily add barcodes to their products.

Representative image only. Source: stevepb/ Pixabay.
  • State governments are directed to purchase only those drugs that are barcoded by domestic manufacturers from the primary level of packaging. This notice was to be implemented from 1 April 2019, but experts are expecting a delay due to the complexity and expense in the process.
  • Last year, the government had directed pharmaceuticals to set an alphanumeric code on their products. This, they had hoped, will help sceptical consumers check its authenticity.

You can read in detail about it here.


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  • Reacting to this new update, P Umanath, the Managing Director of Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation, said, “We have also received it and are discussing with the vendors. Already numerical code is there, they are converting it into a Bar Code. All our vendors should be in a position to implement it. We will discuss it, and we will try to implement here also.”
  • The Health Ministry’s orders promise a more transparent process that will keep counterfeit and substandard medicines away from the pharmacies.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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