FDA examining use of color in drug packaging

The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research held a public hearing on the current practice of using colors on pharmaceutical product packaging and labeling to help identify, classify, and differentiate drug products.

The hearing sought to determine if such use of color is beneficial and effective in reducing medical errors. Colors are used in four ways:

• Color coding—Designed to aid in the classification and identification of drug products, a color coding system allows people to memorize a color and match it to its function.

• Color differentiation—Designed to help distinguish one item from another, color differentiation involves the use of color on a package to make certain features stand out.

• Color branding—A new concept from a single manufacturer of insulin products, color branding uses color to differentiate one drug product from another.

• Color matching—Designed to reduce errors, color matching uses color to match one item with another, such as a plug of a certain color that attaches to a receptacle of the same color.

CDER said that so far there is little scientific evidence that color is effective in reducing medication errors and that no validated scientific method permits corroborating the benefits of using color in this way.

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