Packaging provides solutions

Protecting profit margins to keeping companies ahead of the curve

As the pharmaceutical industry faces challenges such as meeting the needs of a diverse population, a growing counterfeit threat, tighter profit margins and stricter regulations, packaging innovations are helping to combat these challenges.

Out of necessity, pharmaceutical packaging tends to be more functional than other industry sectors, with aesthetics being much lower on the requirements list.

The importance of functional, easy-to-open packaging continues to increase as the number of people aged 65 and older is expected to more than double from now until 2060. But packaging needs to be both senior-friendly and child-resistant. This can be a difficult balance as the very features that improve child resistance also make it more challenging for seniors to open.

Gone are the days when the familiar child-resistant “press to turn” closure is the only option. Many prescription drugs are now distributed in blister packs that provide a perfect seal, avoid contact with the atmosphere or other products and eliminate the issue of contamination in a retail environment.

Other innovations include “press-to-engage” resealable sliders that are difficult for toddlers but easy for adults of all ages. Blister lidding is another alternative, requiring a “targeted” push-through motion instead of the usual peel tabs. These packages are not only operational for the elderly but can be a lot smaller than traditional peel-push or peelable blister cards.

Beyond functional packaging, the pharma industry is looking to packaging to improve brand protection. The sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals is the world’s largest fraud market, worth more than $200 billion per year. However, digital packaging solutions are offering greater supply chain visibility and making falsification harder.

Digital mass serialisation is one solution to combat counterfeiting. It involves the generation of a pseudo-random code in a sequential manner by a technology provider entered into their or their customers’ database for later verification. The authentication process matches the unique code on a product to those stored in the database. If the code is present, the product is deemed to be genuine.

Digital watermarks also offer an additional layer of protection by providing invisible data on packaging encoded within graphic elements and verified by special software. The data can be captured using a webcam, mobile phones or other scanning equipment … but is invisible to the human eye. The degradation of the embedded data will reveal attempts to reproduce it.

To help control costs, respond to medical breakthroughs and remain competitive, continued development in manufacturing technology is crucial.

The packaging of the future is smart and able to think for itself. By using integrated technologies such as near-field communication (NFC) chips, sensors, LEDs and screens, packaging solutions offer value-added functions that not only help to meet regulatory requirements but make products stand out in the market.

3D printing is also assisting manufacturers to break existing performance trade-offs by decreasing the capital involved in achieving economies of scale and enhancing flexibility. 3D printing will facilitate growth by lowering the costs normally associated with customisation and production changeovers.

Learn more about packaging advances at this year’s Healthcare Packaging EXPO, colocated with PACK EXPO International (14–17 October, Chicago, IL USA), produced by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.

The show will provide attendees education and insight into the latest in pharmaceuticals packaging solutions with more than 2500 exhibitors and 50,000 industry professionals. For more information and to register, visit hcpechicago.com.

Companies