Fulfilling Authority Requirements on Drugs for Improved Traceability and Safety




To enhance medication safety, Hospital Authority (HA) has promulgated the presence of GS1 Standard Unique Identifier (UI) on the outer packaging of all pharmaceutical products in HA’s drug procurement tender bidding. Referred to the “Guideline for Implementing GS1 DataMatrix on Pharmaceutical Products for Hong Kong Hospital Authority” (“Guideline”) developed by GS1 HK, the medical products are required to be labelled in such a way as to facilitate the transfer of product identification information (GTIN), the expiration date/ the best before date, and the batch/lot number from the product to the tracking system at Sales Pack Level. 


MSD in Hong Kong, one of the top five biopharmaceutical companies in the city, has been supplying more than 12 drugs to HA, including antibacterial and antiviral drugs, general anesthesia, anti-diabetic medicine and more. Serving Hong Kong for more than 60 years, MSD understands the importance of unique identification of pharmaceutical products in many clinical and non-clinical processes – for improved patient safety and an efficient and secure supply chain. 




Solution – GS1 DataMatrix 

Before HA’s announcement in early 2023, MSD has already adopted GS1 DataMatrix coding system on 100% of its drugs supplied to HA, to ensure better tracing of the products and enhanced safety. In other words, all MSD’s tender items have been ready to fulfill the tender requirement set out in the “Guideline” stipulated by HA.


Early Adopter 

As industry pioneer, MSD had concluded a pilot programme a few years ago to apply GS1 DataMatrix on one of its vaccine products, safeguarding patient safety and ensuring product integrity. The company has progressively applied the global standard thereafter. 

This is in line with the global healthcare regulators’ and stakeholders’ practice in over 75 countries around the world, including Australia, Brazil, Europe, USA, etc., as well as WHO, UNICEF and the international vaccine alliance GAVI, etc. 


Multiple Benefits 

MSD included a unique serial number in the GS1 DataMatrix in addition to the required attributes (GTIN, expiration date and lot number), helping pharmacists to easily check and detect any anomalies on each individual pack, like expired product, when it is dispensed to the patient. 

The company also enjoys the capability to track-and-trace all pharmaceutical items supplied to HA, for enhanced medication safety. In case of rare events like product recall, MSD can swiftly identify the batch of products, conduct effective recall and minimise any effects.

The digital way of capturing and sharing of product information help MSD and its trading partner handle the large volume of pharmaceutical products quickly, achieving operational efficiency in the supply chain process. 

Having adopted industry standard like Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC) and GS1 HK’s ezTRADE, an EDI-based e-commerce community platform years ago, the pharmaceutical firm has benefited from added traceability feature and automation of trading process needed to champion in the increasingly digitalised healthcare space. 


Next Step 

MSD is considering to expand implementation of the global standard to drugs provided to other healthcare partners (e.g. clinics, private hospital). Aimed to transform healthcare in the city through scientific excellence and ground-breaking collaborations, MSD will continue to work with GS1 HK for more digital health advancement and best practices to address the health needs of patients today and years to come. 


By applying GS1 DataMatrix on the drugs supplied to HA, MSD can:

Comply with HA drug procurement tender bidding requirement; 

Supports HA in enhancing patient safety through expiry date management and batch-level traceability;

Realise operational efficiency by reducing manual processes with a simple scan.

GS1 standards used or solution (s) / service (s) applied
  • GS1 DataMatrix
  • GTIN

Adding GS1 standard unique identifier to drugs’ packages is an important step to enable the products to meet the tender requirements, it also creates the opportunities to support various applications for drug safety, compliance and delivery enhancement in the future.

Vincent Tong,
Managing Director, Hong Kong & Macau

Company Background


MSD in Hong Kong has a diversified talent pool of over 100 people. Guided by its founder’s wisdom – “Medicine is for the people”, the company upholds a human-centric perspective to serve the Hong Kong society. As one of the top five biopharmaceutical companies in Hong Kong, MSD specialises on prevention work and treatment of different diseases including COVID-19, infectious diseases, oncology, and cardiovascular.

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