Big pharma has a PR problem. With leading drug makers such as Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma facing mounting state legal challenges for their role in the US opioid epidemic – and being ordered to pay out large settlements – the industry is working to not only mitigate damage to their reputations, but also comply with increasingly strict regulations that aim to prevent such crises in the future.
These efforts are netting major opportunities for suppliers of the $94 billion global pharmaceutical packaging industry, particularly those using innovation to quell public concerns.
From enhanced dosage-measuring features to smart alerts delivered from a drug package to a user’s smartphone, here are 4 packaging innovations making pharmaceuticals safer and more reliable and secure for consumers worldwide.
- Smart Technology Integration
While active and intelligent packaging features such as gas scavengers and time-temperature sensors have been around for a long time, smart technology is increasingly being integrated with pharmaceutical packaging to prevent diversion, counterfeiting, and prescription non-adherence. For example:
- Adhere Tech’s smart pill bottle precisely measures medication quantities, lighting up and pinging synced electronic devices when it is time for another dose or when bottle contents are low.
- Companion Medical’s InPen insulin cartridges features a built-in computer chip that collects and transmits data, as well as a temperature sensor that triggers an alarm if the drug contents fall below freezing or exceed body temperature. In addition, the InPen links to smartphone and laptop apps that calculate dosages, set scheduling reminders, and allow for remote monitoring.
- Dosage Measurement
Smart technology can also be used to promote strict prescription adherence, a particularly important factor in clinical trials. For example:
- WestRock’s CerePak blister pack configuration encloses medication in a smart blister card that contains a hidden microprocessor printed with conductive inks that record that date, time, and location of each pill removed from the package.
- The CerePak can also be adapted to gentle sound or vibrating signals that activate at the time of scheduled doses.
- This enables precise tracking and recordkeeping of active drugs and placebos taken by clinical trial patients.
Outside of clinical settings, the most intensive users of pharmaceuticals – the elderly – may prefer lower-tech solutions to dosage-measuring. For example, unit-dose configurations such as James Alexander’s line of single-use plastic squeeze tubes for topical skin preparations provide for pre-measured dosing that helps prevent mistakes.
- Child-Resistant & Ease-of-Use Features
A key consideration of drug makers is to ensure packaging complies with FDA definition of child resistance, or packaging that is proven through a certified test to be difficult for children to open but easy for adults to open.
Among recent innovative product introductions that meet these standards are Comar’s DoseGuard system, which consists of a round plastic bottle, an oral dispenser, and a recessed valve bottle adapter designed to provide passive protection against the inadvertent ingestion of liquid medications by children.
However, ease-of-use/delivery is also important to healthcare providers. B. Braun Medical’s DUPLEX dual-compartment flexible plastic IV bag simplifies the intravenous delivery of antibiotics by:
- storing unit doses of drug powder and diluent separately in the same container
- eliminating the use of vials from the preparatory process
- employing special oxygen and moisture barrier technologies to protect the drug powder from vapor and oxygen transfer through the bag, extending product shelve life
- Shelf Life Extenders
Extending product shelf life – such as through use of active packaging components (e.g., desiccants) or enhanced barrier technologies – is a key focus of pharmaceutical packaging innovation, with a number of products coming to market in recent years that improve on the performance of familiar packaging features. For example:
- Amcor’s StabilitySolutions bottles protect against moisture ingress from cross-diffusion through the lid seal, which eliminates need for desiccant sachets or wads inside the package and thereby enhances patient safety by removing risk of desiccant consumption.
- Also from Amcor, the AluForm blister pack provides advanced gas, light, and moisture barrier properties.
Specialty oxygen absorbers are also seeing increased use in pharmaceutical packaging designs:
- Multisorb Filtration Group’s StabilOx packets are designed to reduce oxygen levels while maintaining optimal humidity levels in sealed packages. They are available in various formats and can be used in plastic bottles, trays, blister packs, and other types of packaging.
- Mitsubishi’s PharmaKeep absorbs oxygen at low relative humidity levels and prevents the oxidative degradation of drugs. The product is available in packets and canisters.
Looking for More?
For more information on these and other relevant industry trends, see Global Pharmaceutical Packaging, a new study from The Freedonia Group. In addition to historical demand data (2008, 2013, and 2018) and forecasts (2023) by product group and global region, the study provides company market share and competitive analysis on key industry participants like Amcor, West Pharmaceutical Services, Becton Dickinson, Gerresheimer, CCL Industries, and more.
About the Author:
Peter Kusnic is a Content Writer with The Freedonia Group, where he researches and writes studies focused on the consumer goods and packaging industries.