September 22, 2023

India Mandates QR Codes on Top-Selling Medicines to Combat Counterfeiting

In a groundbreaking move to safeguard public health, the Government of India has taken significant strides in its battle against counterfeit and sub-standard medicines by mandating the implementation of QR codes or barcodes on the top-selling 300 pharmaceutical brands. Commencing from August 1, these unique codes will provide consumers with vital information to authenticate their medicine purchases, ensuring the quality and legitimacy of the drugs they consume.

The ‘track and trace’ mechanism, launched by the Drugs Control General of India (DCGI), seeks to alleviate concerns about the widespread circulation of fake medicines and bolster confidence in the pharmaceutical market. By scanning the QR code, individuals can access crucial details such as the manufacturing license and batch number, date of manufacturing, date of expiry, and manufacturing license number. This move empowers consumers to make informed decisions about their medications, protecting them from potential harm and health risks posed by counterfeit drugs.

Initially, the QR code mandate will be enforced on widely-sold medications, encompassing approximately Rs 50,000 crore worth of pharmaceuticals in the retail market. Essential medicines, including antibiotics, cardiac pills, pain-relief tablets, anti-diabetics, and anti-allergics, are part of the first batch. Additionally, notable medications like Mixtard and Glycomet-GP for diabetes, Augmentin and Monocef for infections, and Pan for gastro-related issues, will bear QR codes, collectively accounting for a substantial portion of the domestic retail market valued at over Rs 2 lakh crore.

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) has issued stringent guidelines to pharmaceutical companies, warning of penalties for non-compliance. In a communication sent to all drug manufacturers in November 2022, the CDSCO emphasized the mandatory implementation of QR codes or barcodes on specified drug formulations manufactured on or after August 1, 2023, irrespective of the manufacturing site’s location.

The introduction of QR codes on medicines marks a milestone in the country’s efforts to bolster pharmaceutical regulation and patient safety. While the concept was conceived a decade ago, delays resulted from the domestic pharma industry’s unpreparedness and the lack of requisite software and technology systems.

The implementation of QR codes on medicines reflects the government’s commitment to prioritize public health and ensure access to safe and genuine medications. With this measure in place, consumers can confidently make their medication purchases, knowing they have the necessary tools to verify the authenticity and quality of the drugs they consume. As India takes this bold step forward, it sets a significant precedent in the global fight against counterfeit medicines, reinforcing its position as a leader in pharmaceutical regulation and patient care.