Though setbacks continue to hinder development of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, the sheer scale of global efforts all but ensures that if one can be developed, it will eventually be. Once a vaccine gains regulatory approval – a process that could still take years – suppliers and governments will face an incredible logistics challenge in terms of manufacturing, distributing, and dispensing the vaccine in a timely manner for hundreds of millions if not billions of people around the world.
Planning will be key to prevent shortages of critical supplies as demand is soaring (as seen with PPE, toilet paper, meat, and other products at various points since March). How are pharmaceutical packaging suppliers adapting to the present and planning for the future? Highlighted below are some insights from the Freedonia Group’s new Pharmaceutical Packaging study.
Avoiding Future Supply Shortages Through Capacity Expansions
Though the pandemic is not projected to impact the pharmaceutical packaging industry significantly due to the essential nature of drug therapies, the discovery of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine will lead to a surge in demand for glass vials, prefillable syringes, and other packaging products needed to ensure safe and sterile transport and storage of the vaccine prior to use.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that supply chains can be fragile. For instance, as China is the leading global supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for generic drugs, the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Hubei province – where over 40 contract pharmaceutical manufacturing firms are headquartered – led to temporary shortages in several bulk medicinal compounds.
Recurrence of such situations in different parts of the world as outbreaks flare has driven major players in the global pharmaceutical industry to scale up production in anticipation of the demand surge to come with the discovery of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. Suppliers of pharmaceutical packaging are also investing heavily in expansion.
Increased Investment in Drug R&D to Benefit Pharma Packagers Long Term
The most significant short-term impact of COVID-19 on the global pharmaceutical packaging industry will be its disruptive impact on drug research and development activities:
- The commercialization of new therapies for cancer, heart failure, diabetes, and other major diseases will likely be hindered throughout 2020 as the pandemic inhibits the implementation of clinical trials throughout much of the world and delays regulatory drug approvals in many countries.
- These trends will moderate overall growth opportunities for several high-value pharmaceutical packaging products, including wallet blister packs, safety-enhanced prefillable syringe injectors, and automated dry powder inhalers.
Over the long term, however, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic should encourage increased drug research and development activity into antiviral agents and vaccines. Other than the successful hepatitis C treatments, efforts to commercialize antiviral drugs have remained limited since the introduction of several breakthrough AIDS/HIV therapies in the mid- to late-1990s. This trend is responsible for the overall lack of effective COVID-19 therapies at the time of its outbreak in late 2019.
US Pharmaceutical Packaging Market Outlook & Key Trends Through 2024
Demand for pharmaceutical packaging products in the US is forecast to grow 5.2% per year to $29.9 billion in 2024, driven by expanding use of high-value containers, closures, and accessories that enhance drug delivery, as well as the increasing importance of packaging as new sophisticated therapies penetrate the market:
- Parenteral containers will post the fastest rate of growth among primary pharmaceutical packaging, both in unit and value terms.
- Their low cost, along with improving performance properties, will keep plastic bottles the most widely employed containers for oral pharmaceuticals and will broaden their opportunities in topical medication.
- Dispensing closures, parenteral stoppers, thermoformed trays, clamshell packs, security-enhanced labels, and intelligent components will provide the fastest growth opportunities among secondary pharmaceutical packaging products.
However, intensifying pressures on drug makers to lower prices will heighten price sensitivity for pharmaceutical packaging.
Want to Learn More?
Pharmaceutical Packaging and Global Pharmaceutical Packaging are now available from The Freedonia Group.
About the Author:
Peter Kusnic is a Content Writer with The Freedonia Group, where he researches and writes studies focused on an array of industries.