Pharma Packaging: Saving Lives

By Joan Mantini

The pharmaceutical packaging market continues to advance; however, we are still seeing areas that need to be addressed more closely due to the life or death situations they can create. According to the non-profit organization Safe Kids Worldwide, some 59,000 children in the U.S. are treated in emergency rooms for accidental poisoning from medication each year. Which is why it is shocking to learn that despite these statistics, not all countries have laws in place to mandate child-resistant packaging on pharmaceutical products.  Despite other countries having laws where child-resistant packaging remains optional for some types of medication that may still be harmful to children, in the U.S. numerous drugs are subject to such laws and must be distributed in child-safe packaging.

Indeed, with the severity of this issue, companies like Constantia Flexibles continue to stay committed to helping customers offer their medications in pharmaceutical packaging that meets the highest child-resistance standards. “Although the pharma packaging market is rather slow to change, we do see more technically advanced requests for packaging with enhanced barrier properties,” said Karolina Kartus, associate marketing manager for Constantia Flexibles. “We also are experiencing increased requests for more functional packaging that meets specific customer needs – be it child-resistance for safety or user friendliness for on-the-go lifestyles.”

Constantia Flexibles is meeting the demand with innovations such as Flexible Blister – a pioneering packaging solution that combines the portability of a strip pack with the ease of use of a blister. In addition, the company turns packages into a content channel. “Thanks to the link between the package and digital content, by scanning the packaging via a smart device’s camera, consumers can experience various engagement features,” said Kartus.

Consumer compliance is another trend in pharma that is leading the industry to take a more holistic approach to the product and package designs, addressing how the two are integrated and work together. “In turn, this can help shape product and package development processes and organizations to better integrate and connect both,” said Craig Voellmicke, vice president of business development for Aptar CSP Technologies. “Looking forward, the platform is also ripe for adding intelligent/smart technology to create a package that connects products and benefits via mobile connectivity and interactive elements.”

Blister packaging has been proving to be an effective tool for improving consumer compliance. “Increasingly, consumer compliance is among the most sought-after benefits of packaging designs and technology,” said Voellmicke.  “This demand is driving industry innovation: novel package designs, the emergence of new/next-gen technology (e.g. intelligent/smart packaging) applied to both bottles and blisters, etc.

“I’m impressed by the continued evolution and customization of compliance package designs; blister packaging created for the specific application and consumer, providing calendarized designs that are portable and look/feel more user-friendly. The use of new materials also can add to aesthetics and performance.”

Blister packaging offers a platform that is able to address areas of concern in both consumer compliance and child-resistant packaging.  It is also a proven way to provide tamper evidence. However, while consumer compliance, child safety and tamper evidence can be beneficial for solid dose applications to utilize a blister package, drug stability can still be a challenge. For the drug products faced with more difficulties, Aptar CSP Technologies offers Activ-Blister™ Solutions which allows for the oxygen and/or moisture protection to extend shelf life within the desired package. By using Activ-Blister, pharmaceutical companies have the ability to design the blister package that they want for their consumers and also achieve their desired shelf life.

The use of smart packaging in pharma continues to move forward to help provide consumer engagement in prompting and reminding on dosage, recording, alerting to refill and collecting patient information. Moving forward we should be able to witness both primary and secondary packaging continuing to evolve as new laws begin to take form, as well as with the integration of new technology developments on a global level.