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Hospital purchasing group seeks bar codes

While the Food & Drug Administration continues to work on its proposal to require bar codes on pharmaceutical packaging for hospitals, one of the largest national hospital purchasing organizations, Premier, Inc., Oak Brook, IL, has already acted.

Late last year, the company announced it would require bar codes on medications and biological products bought through group contracts. Premier buys products for 1길 hospitals nationwide, including $6 billion in pharmacy products. It has about 150 group contracts for pharmaceuticals, covering more than 12ꯠ products. The requirement will be added as contracts are renewed. While the company would like to see manufacturers “gravitate toward” providing the new drug number plus an expiration date and lot number in the bar code, “we’re realistic,” says Tony Gulczynski, Premier’s vice president of clinical pharmacy. “What we most want to avoid are shortages of products because we’ve demanded too much information in the bar code.” Like the motivation at FDA, Premier’s Howard Sanders says, “We are convinced that medication errors in hospitals will be reduced with more assurance that patients get the right medicine at the right time in the right dosage. We also believe that, by taking this step, we will ultimately reduce costs in the hospital supply process.” Premier has used staff consultants to help hospitals move into bar-code scanning to gain economies as well as to minimize errors. Gulczynski says he’s encouraging suppliers to add lot numbers to the NDC in the bar code for the lowest dispensable pack, since it won’t require a more sophisticated code. (AO)

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