Category Archives: standards

The Open Serialization Communication Standard (Open-SCS)

open-scs-logo2-300x289Most RxTrace readers are at least aware of GS1 standards.  GS1 is an international non-profit membership organization that facilitates the development and maintenance of technical standards that are intended for use within supply chain operations and interactions.  GS1 standards are used in many supply chains including pharma.  GS1 standards are playing an indispensable role in the implementation of pharma serialization, including their GTIN, GLN, SSCC, Datamatrix, application identifier and EPCIS standards.  I have written frequently about GS1 and these specific standards (see “GS1”).

But today I want to draw your attention to a different standards development organization Continue reading The Open Serialization Communication Standard (Open-SCS)

Can HIBCC Withstand The GS1 Tide In Medical Device Identification?

I was recently asked to help a small medical device manufacturer switch all of their medical device-related product codes from Health Industry Business Communications Council (HIBCC) Universal Product Numbers (UPN) to GS1 Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN).  Historically, the pharmaceutical supply chain has used GS1 GTINs but the medical device supply chain has predominantly used HIBCC UPNs, so a switch like that seemed to be against the grain.  I asked them, “Why are you abandoning HIBCC codes for GS1 codes?”

The answer was a little startling Continue reading Can HIBCC Withstand The GS1 Tide In Medical Device Identification?

Should FDA Cede All Standards Development To GS1?

Back in 2007 the U.S. Congress passed the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA) and it was signed into law by President Bush.  One of the provisions of that law was an instruction to the FDA to “…develop standards and identify and validate effective technologies for the purpose of securing the drug supply chain against counterfeit, diverted, subpotent, substandard, adulterated, misbranded, or expired drugs”, and “…develop standards for the identification, validation, authentication, and tracking and tracing of prescription drugs.”

The FDA fulfilled these instructions for one of the specific standards that the law identified when the agency published their Standardized Numerical Identifier (SNI) standard back in 2010.  That standard was fairly high level and for the vast majority of drugs, use of GS1’s Serialized Global Trade Item Number (SGTIN) (or “GTIN plus serial number”) for drug package identification would comply with it.  The text of the FDA’s standard says as much.

By defining the SNI in this way did the FDA surrender the development of the real SNI standard to GS1 (at least the sNDC portion of it)?  I don’t think so.  In my essay about the SNI standard I described it as the FDA “aligning” with GS1’s SGTIN (see my essay “FDA Aligns with GS1 SGTIN For SNDC”).  Alignment shouldn’t be confused with surrender.  The choice of alignment with SGTIN was good for the FDA, good for patients and good for the industry.


In the case of the SNI aligning with GS1’s SGTIN we got the following things: Continue reading Should FDA Cede All Standards Development To GS1?

GS1 Standards – Betcha Can’t Use Just One!

The title is a paraphrase of a TV commercial from the 1960’s, ’70’s and ’80’s for Lay’s Potato Chips but the sentiment is the same.  You really can’t get away with using only a single GS1 standard.  That’s why they are sometimes referred to as “The GS1 System of Standards“.  It’s a “system” of standards.  Multiple standards that are designed to work for you together in concert; as a whole; not independently.

So when your customer demands that you make use of Global Location Numbers (GLN) and/or Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), they are starting you down the path of adoption of much more than just those two “entry-level” standards (see my essay “So a customer demands that you use GLN’s and GTIN’s. What next?”).  Here is a partial list of other GS1 standards that you may benefit from adopting once you fully embrace GLN and GTIN: Continue reading GS1 Standards – Betcha Can’t Use Just One!

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

Masterpiece: GS1 Tag Data Standard 1.5

GS1 EPCglobal ratified and published the most recent version of the Tag Data Standard (TDS), 1.5.  I have always been a fan of TDS, but earlier versions served as much to expose embarassing disconnects in GS1 standards as they did to explain how to apply GS1 identifiers in an Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) context.  Earlier versions of TDS tightly bound the concept of the Electronic Product Code (EPC) to RFID, and that’s just wrong.  “EPC”, even as defined in those earlier versions of TDS, is a way of uniquely identifying objects on a global basis.  It’s purely a globally unique identifier standard.  That’s a hugely important and relatively new concept.  RFID–a simple data carrier technology that’s been around for many years–is almost insignificant in comparison.

Even the name “Tag Data Standard” reflects this wrong-headed binding of EPC to RFID by seeming to place the RFID “Tag” at the center of the “standard”.  Yes, there is a need for a “Tag Data Standard”, to show how to encode an EPC into an RFID tag, but it is wrong to Continue reading Masterpiece: GS1 Tag Data Standard 1.5

So a customer demands that you use GLN’s and GTIN’s. What next?

In the healthcare supply chain a significant number of hospital group purchasing organizations (GPO’s) have stipulated, to varying degrees, that their suppliers begin making use of GS1 Global Location Numbers (GLN’s) in all of their trade with their member hospitals by the end of 2010 (Sunrise 2010) and GS1 Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN’s) by the end of 2012 (Sunrise 2012).  Here are the announcements from Novation, Premier, MedAssets and Amerinet.  From the wording of their announcements it appears that Continue reading So a customer demands that you use GLN’s and GTIN’s. What next?