The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has come out with an initiative to instil medicines with Bar codes or Quick Response (QR) codes that enable vigilant consumers to swiftly authenticate their medications. Through the gazette notification dated November 17, 2022, the Ministry listed names of 300 top brands of medicines in the country and stipulated that the medicines must come with a QR code having key details of the medicine, from August 1, 2023.
Spurious medicines have always been of utmost concern to the pharmaceutical industry. Apart from the loss in revenue, and the IP violations, there is also a very real danger of harm to human health. To effectively address these concerns, the Ministry has taken this initiative which is aimed at increasing consumer confidence and increasing faith in the safety of consuming medicines. In its initial phase, 300 medicine brands that are top sellers like Dolo, Allegra, Meftal Spas, Calol, and Shelcal will carry these QR codes for verification, with the drug makers having the freedom to add more drugs to the scheme as well. Later on, more drugs like antibiotics, cardiac drugs, painkillers, anti-diabetics, and other anti-allergic medicines will also be included in the scheme.
The scheme was initially designed by the Department of Pharmaceuticals and enforced by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO). Fast forward to today, the Drugs Control General of India (DGCI) has given strict orders and threatened fines to ensure compliance by key pharma companies. The Drug Rules, 1945 have also been amended in accordance with the need to properly implement the scheme.
This QR code does not need any preinstalled applications and will display several key details about the medicines. If these details do not pop up or if the information does not match the one given on the label, this could signal counterfeiting. Some of the important details that these QR codes must provide as per the notification are the unique product identification code, proper and generic name of the drug, brand name, name and address of the manufacturer, batch number, date of manufacturing, date of expiry and manufacturing licence number.
The far-reaching impact of affixing QR codes on the packaging label of drugs cannot be overstated, as they are poised to reduce counterfeit and substandard drugs from the market and safeguard the health and lives of millions across the globe. In a watershed moment for pharmaceutical safety, India’s implementation of QR codes on medicines is set to revolutionise the industry and pave the way for a safer, more authentic healthcare landscape.