WHETHER involved in a child's accidental ingestion or in an adult's suicide attempt—or, for that matter, simply as the focus of an about-to-expire prescription—the unknown medication presents an enigma. Be it the blatantly unrecognizable, anonymous small white tablet or the multi-colored, characteristically coated capsule pleading for recognition, the unknown medication all too often defies precise identification, or occupies far too much time in achieving it.
Various techniques have been advocated to overcome this obstacle. Proposals range from the naïveté of clearly signifying generic names on prescriptions, so the patients will learn and remember them, to the equally ineffective suggestion of labeling all drug containers—from which medications are so frequently transferred to other containers. At a far more realistic conceptual level, Heffernen contrived his monumental Identification Guide for Solid Dosage Forms. With specificity based on contrasts in physical characteristics, ie, shape, size, color, etc, the code was published in The Journal
Symonds JK, Robertson WO. Drug Identification Use of Coded Imprint. JAMA. 1967;199(9):664-665. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120090106027