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Leeds pharmacy partners with technology company to test barcode system that will track medicines

A barcode system that can be used to track a medicine along the entire supply chain from manufacture to a patient’s home is being piloted by a Leeds community pharmacist and a technology company in a €1.5m research project.

As part of the research, the technology is also being developed to allow patients to scan their medicine using a smartphone and link to a video tutorial about the product.

Some 10,000 products will be over-labelled with a traceable 2D barcode, and 50 patients with chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes will be recruited by Medichem pharmacy in Leeds to pilot the system starting in June 2014.

Community pharmacist Rajeev Dhand, who has a share in seven pharmacies in Leeds and the surrounding area, said the barcoding could transform the product recall system, allowing individual batches of medicines to be traced. It could also be instrumental in the battle against counterfeit medicines. He said: “It can make a real difference to healthcare.”

Altaf Sadique, who is chief executive of the technology company Gane Data,  said the technology being developed will be able to provide “end batch traceability”. He said: “It is amazing that we are able to trace food from farm to fork but that we can’t do the same for pharmacy.”

The smartphone scanning functionality would enable patients using devices like inhalers or insulin pens to access videos explaining the best way to use their medicines. “Its potential is absolutely huge,” said Mr Sadique.

The Leeds research, which is part of a wider EU project, comes three years before the European Commission wants all medicines to have a unique identifier — probably a bar code — in order to make the supply chain more secure.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11132821

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