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October 11, 1985

Drug Imprinting: 1984 Update

Author Affiliations

From the Washington Poison Network, Seattle (Dr Robertson), and the Washington State Board of Pharmacy, Olympia (Mr Williams).

JAMA. 1985;254(14):1964. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360140122039

PRIOR TO 1967, no reliable method short of chemical analysis existed to permit rapid, accurate identification of unknown tablets and capsules. Then, Eli Lilly and Co, Indianapolis, introduced an imprint system (Identicode) that used a three-digit alphanumeric code plus its logotype to perform such identification. Field testing confirmed that a better than 98% accuracy was achieved in less than 12 seconds.1

In the succeeding decade many other pharmaceutical manufacturers adopted the technique; by 1978 more than 90% of the manufacturers illustrating tablets and capsules in the Physicians' Desk Reference were imprinting their products.2 Nevertheless, some manufacturers declined to adopt the technology, limiting its potential effectiveness in assisting poison centers in identifying tablets or capsules in cases of accidental or purposeful overdoses, in enabling pharmacists to implement effective quality-control programs, and in helping physicians to identify new patients' prior drugs or weekend visitors' expiring prescriptions or to verify nursing