Contractors face a three-year deadline to install barcode scanners into their pharmacies as part of European anti-counterfeiting measures.
EU legislation requiring pharmacists to scan medicines at the point of dispensing was published last week (February 9), setting the clock ticking to introduce new systems in every member state by February 2019.
UK wholesalers organisation the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA) said the scanning system – designed to ensure all medicines dispensed are authentic – is unlikely to work until late 2018 at the earliest.
The new legislation requires pharmacies to train staff and install scanners, while manufacturers will have to put new bar codes on their medicine packs, HDA executive director Martin Sawer told C+D last week (February 10).
IT systems suppliers will also need to provide pharmacists with new scanning software, he said.
Similar to existing scanners
The new scanners will be similar to technology pharmacists already use, Mr Sawer stressed. This is because the barcodes that manufacturers will include on packs of medicines will resemble Quick Response (QR) codes, which can be read by existing retail scanners, he said.
"It will be the same type of equipment, just connected to a different IT base," he said.
It is likely the scanning systems will be piloted before they are rolled out across all UK pharmacies, Mr Sawer added.
Mr Sawer stressed it is “good news” that the legislation – which was originally due to be published in 2014 – has “finally” been published because it will create a "credible and sustainable" solution to securing the European medicines supply chain.