My car lets me know (with an often terrifying series of honks) when I’ve left my keys in the cup holder. Wouldn’t it be nice if prescriptions issued the same sort of warning – though perhaps without the frightening public notification – before a patient misses a dose or runs out of medicine and has to make a last minute run to the pharmacy? With the integration of smarter features into pharmaceutical packaging, your medicines may soon tell you where they’ve been, when to take them, and how many of them to take.
1. Ring! Ring! It’s Time to Take Your Pills
WestRock’s CerePak paperboard packaging – currently used for clinical trial participants – incorporates lights or vibrations that remind patients to take their medications at the appropriate time. Beyond using these features to ensure adherence, it also features a microprocessor that can record the date, time, and place where a medication was taken, allowing for more exact recordkeeping for those conducting the trials.
While CerePak is currently used only for clinical trials, this kind of smart packaging could find wider use in the consumer market. Medication reminders that are a part of the pharmaceutical packaging themselves or containers that track if and when medication has been taken could benefit forgetful patients and their providers by ensuring (or at least monitoring) adherence.
2. There’s an App for That
Most packaging for medical inhalers already incorporates a smart feature that tracks how many doses remain within. But 3M’s 3M Intelligent Control Inhaler is even smarter. With an integrated screen that displays instructions for how to use the inhaler, the product reports the number of doses left and timestamps each one to help facilitate adherence.
3M’s inhaler can also connect to other smart devices such as a smartphone, allowing patients to set reminders, review their inhaler use, and send usage data to their healthcare providers via an app. Such app-driven access may become increasingly appealing or expected as consumers grow more engaged with their smartphones and crave more individualized medical programs.
3. From Fold-Out Leaflets to Online Access
For those tired of trying to read the small print on medicine bottles, near-field communication (NFC) labels allow for easier access to manufacturer’s dosage or usage information, including important side effects. With a tap of a connected smartphone, consumers can access a variety of drug information directly from the supplier.
These same sensors can also be used by manufacturers to monitor the environmental conditions – such as humidity and temperature – in which their products are stored, ensuring that medications are not compromised before reaching consumers. In addition, this record can convey such information as the expiration date as well as proper use guidelines.
4. Technology Enables Improved Security Regulations
As a result of the US FDA’s Drug Supply Chain Security Act, all US prescription drug packages and cases in the country must have a unique product identifier by November 2018, when the policy takes effect. Each package within a case will be required to have its own serial number to prevent drug counterfeiting, creating demand for both labels for the serial numbers and the software to create and read the data.
Originally set for November 2017, the FDA’s enforcement deadline has been delayed because many pharmaceutical companies – especially smaller manufacturers – did not have the appropriate technology installed to meet the serialization requirements. 2D barcode technology has become more sophisticated in recent years and is expected to continue progressing, making this level of tracking possible.
The European Union will also be enforcing an updated medication verification system by February 2019. The Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/161 supplements the EU’s 2011 Falsified Medicines Directive. Like the Drug Supply Chain Security Act in the US, the EU’s updated regulation requires unique identifiers for pharmaceutical packaging, and it also orders the inclusion of anti-tampering devices.
Want to Know More?
With concerns about data privacy and the recycling of electronic components in traditionally disposable packaging, smart packaging may go through many shifts before expanding into the wider market to confuse the grandparents of the world with mysteriously vibrating or ringing prescriptions. However, as use of value-added packaging is already increasing, smarter packaging also has room to expand in this market.
To find out more about smart packaging and other facets of the $84 billion pharmaceutical packaging market – including sales forecasts, breakdowns of regional demand trends, and analysis of the top players – check out The Freedonia Group’s new study, Global Pharmaceutical Packaging.
About the Author
Josie DiNovo is an editor at The Freedonia Group, where she edits reports across all the MarketResearch.com publishing brands in addition to writing and editing blogs.