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CPSI Share                                                  
3/22/2012 6:00 PM

​​The Canadian Pharmaceutical Bar Coding Project is a joint initiative of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada (ISMP-Canada) to implement standardized bar codes on all aspects of pharmaceutical labeling to enhance medication safety.  The Canadian Pharmaceutical Bar Coding Project is a unique opportunity for all stakeholders of the Canadian medication system to collaborate nationally and internationally, from industry to healthcare providers, within both institutional and community care, on a comprehensive strategy for enhanced medication labeling to improve patient safety. International health jurisdictions have embraced medication label bar coding requirements as a critical first step toward improved public safety, through the increased use of smart systems that utilize automated identification (AI) methods of assisting healthcare practitioners in their administration of medication.

ISMP Canada and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute have facilitated a collaborative strategy with over 50 participating organizations to address the technical approach to bar coding, adopting the GS1 global AI standard.   This multi-phase project developed and issued technical requirements in 2010 for Canadian pharmaceuticals that have been marketed for use within Canada.  The standard provided guidance to all health sectors, outlining recommended bar code components and symbologies, product database elements, medications to be included in the bar coded categories, and packaging levels and bar code placement.  To view the Joint Technical Statement on Pharmaceutical Automated Identification and Product Database Requirements, click here.  The Joint Technical Statement is due to be updated later in 2011, to address additional recommendations for pharmaceutical automated identification system improvements.

The project leads recently met with the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Deputy Ministers of Health to provide an update and outline potential areas of synergy. The Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres (CAPHC) Patient Safety Collaborative hosted a webinar where Ian Sheppard, ISMP Canada Project Lead for the Canadian Pharmaceutical Bar Coding Project explained how evidence shows that many errors are preventable through medication bar coding and related patient care systems improvements.  To access a copy of the webinar presentation, visit the CAPHC Knowledge Exchange Network website: and click on Patient Safety.

To learn more about the Canadian Pharmaceutical Bar Coding Project, visit the ISMP Canada website: