Depicting An NDC Within A GTIN

In recent essays I have covered the “Anatomy of an NDC”, the “Anatomy of a GTIN” and the “Updated HDMA Bar Code Guidance: A Must Read“.  Now let’s put them all together.  Why would we need to do that?  Because the U.S. FDA requires many Over-The-Counter (OTC) and all prescription drugs marketed in the United States to have their National Drug Code (NDC) presented in the form of a linear barcode on the package.  Pure and simple.  To do that in a way that your trading partners can understand—that is, to do it interoperably—you need to follow a standard.  You have two realistic choices for standard approaches to this problem:  HIBCC or GS1.

The use of HIBCC standards is fairly common in the U.S. medical surgical devices supply chain but in the pharmaceutical supply chain it is very rare.  Most companies choose GS1’s barcode standards so that’s all I’m going to focus on in this essay.  If you want more information Continue reading Depicting An NDC Within A GTIN

Anatomy of a GTIN

2012 is the year of the GTIN in the U.S. healthcare supply chains as christened by the largest hospital group purchasing organizations (GPOs) in their so-called “Sunrise 2012” program.  They have asked all of their suppliers to switch from proprietary product codes to GS1’s Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) standard in catalogs, B2B communications and shipment labeling by the end of this year.  They did the same thing with GS1’s Global Location Number (GLN) back in 2010 (“Sunrise 2010”) but so far it appears to have had only a small (but still growing) impact.

The GTIN can be a mysterious concept.  I received an email recently from a sales person who wanted to know what this “G-ten” thing was that her customer kept claiming was so important to her future business with them.  I’ve also sometimes had difficulty convincing people that GTIN adoption is important.  “We don’t need another product identifier.  We already have the NDC!”

I hope to pull back the veil just a little bit and explain not only the anatomy of the GTIN but also why it is so important to all supply chains in all regions of the world.


GS1 explains the GTIN this way:

“As the name implies, the GTIN helps automate the Continue reading Anatomy of a GTIN

Updated HDMA Bar Code Guidance: A Must Read

In a long awaited and much anticipated move the Healthcare Distribution Management Association (HDMA) published updated guidance for the formatting, encoding and placement of barcodes in the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain.  The document is called “HDMA Guidelines for Bar Coding in the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain 2011”.  The guidance is aimed mostly at pharma manufacturers and repackagers who place barcodes on their drug packages, cases and pallets.  The last time the guide was published was in 2005 and this new edition includes some significant changes that everyone in the supply chain who deals with product and shipping container labeling should be aware of.

The updated document can be downloaded from the HDMA Marketplace web page.  It is free to HDMA members.  Non-members will need to pay a fee but don’t let that stop you from downloading a copy if you have any Continue reading Updated HDMA Bar Code Guidance: A Must Read

Anatomy Of The National Drug Code

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created the concept of the National Drug Code (NDC) in 1969 to “…provide an identification system in computer language to permit automated processing of drug data by Government agencies, drug manufacturers and distributors, hospitals, and insurance companies” (from 34 FR 11157, July 2, 1969).  (I can’t find a copy online of the original Federal Register article from 1969 so I’m relying on a more recent article that references it.)   Those of us in the U.S. pharma supply chain make use of NDC’s every day, but very few of us know the history of their development, exactly how the numbers are composed and what they mean.  I’ll try to explain all of that and provide sources for further reading.


The NDC was initially a voluntary identifier (see references at the end of this essay).  We all know how that would have turned out (for more on that thought, see my recent essay “Should Regulations Dictate Technology?“) so in 1972 the FDA made the NDC mandatory for all prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.  Manufacturers were required to obtain a “Labeler Code” from the FDA, construct their NDC’s using that code as the base and print the NDC number on drug packages.  Barcodes were not required by the FDA back then.

From the quote in the first paragraph above you can see that the FDA intended the NDC to be Continue reading Anatomy Of The National Drug Code