Lilly Implements Bar Coding on Individual Insulin Vials

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Lilly Implements Bar Coding on Individual Insulin Vials

Citing its commitment to patient safety, Eli Lilly and Company (Indianapolis, IN, will implement bar codes on individual vials of its insulin products, including Humulin and Humalog. Although bar codes have regularly appeared on the products' outer packaging, this new process would be the first time the coding has been included on the vial labels.

Patient safety is of particular concern with life-saving products such as insulin, which is often removed from its outer packaging before administration to hospital patients. By matching the bar code on the vial to the bar code on a patient's identification bracelet, the likelihood of a medication error incident decreases. Lilly's medical advisor Scot J. Jacober observes that "with the new bar coded vials, doctors can have greater confidence that the drug they are prescribing is given to the correct patient at the correct time."

According to a Lilly press announcement released earlier this month, the US Food and Drug Administration estimates that bar code labeling on prescription drugs can reduce errors by 500,000 incidents during the next 20 years and save an estimated $93 billion in additional healthcare costs. In a Department of Health and Human Services regulation (Federal Register, Feb. 26, 2004,, the agency mandated that all new pharmaceuticals be bar coded within 60 days of approval and all existing medications be bar coded by April 2006 (two years after the Final Rule takes effect).


–Maribel Rios