An Opportunity to Fight the FDA’s Potential QR Code Nightmare


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To the Editor:

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurants’ menus are in the form of a QR code as opposed to physical copies. Reading small type and scrolling along the page is burdensome, and it’s easy to miss many menu items. While this is the new reality in restaurants, and a minor annoyance, a very similar experience may soon be coming to prescription medications with potentially dangerous results. 

Prescription medication has paperwork attached to the packaging that shares critical information such as potential side effects and drug interactions. Essentially, these pamphlets are a helpful resource.

Yet, if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gets its way, this resource may no longer be at your fingertips but hidden behind a QR code. A new rule proposed by the FDA would leave providing critical drug facts up to local pharmacies. In addition, the rule would give pharmacies an option to skip the printed information and provide a QR code instead, which patients would have to scan with their phone or tablet to learn important information about their medication.

This rule is ironic for Big Pharma, which would prefer not to pay for simple printing even as they charge record-high costs for prescription drugs. It would also mean that many patients would have no access to the information they need, since not everyone has or can afford a smartphone, nor readily understand how to use a QR code even if they do. 

This is especially true here in Connecticut, which is the seventh oldest state in the country, with almost a fourth of our population being more than 60 years old. Older citizens typically have more health conditions they need to treat with medications, which is why it’s important that they can easily understand each medication without taking extra digital steps. If the FDA rule goes into effect, many older residents will simply go without seeing important information, which could very well lead to serious health complications if they inadvertently take their medication the wrong way.

Thankfully, there are two ways that we can fight the FDA’s QR code nightmare. The FDA is accepting comments between now and Thanksgiving on this rule, and people in Connecticut can make their voices heard and tell the FDA directly why it’s important for critical drug facts to be provided in a printed format that is easily understood and accessible on all medications, so everyone knows what they take, before they take it.

Also, there is a current bipartisan bill in the U.S. House of Representatives — Patients’ Right to Know Their Medication Act — that would require manufacturer-printed, accurate, visible labeling on all medications while also requiring that information to be formatted in a way that is clinically proven to increase patients’ ease in finding, understanding, remembering, and using medication information. This will help patients know and trust their medications, and ultimately make them more likely to properly take them.

The FDA’s proposed rule is a dangerous gambit and one that must be stopped while we have the chance. Write a comment, call your Congressional representative but please act. No QR code needed either.

State Representative Geoff Luxenberg lives in and represents the 12th House District in Manchester