Here is how pharmaceutical packaging is set for a transformation!

As the pharmaceutical packaging sector is likely to witness substantial growth in the future, there are certain factors on which the market is foreseen to bank upon for its development

By Smruti Hingnikar

The pressing need for patient engagement and usage of smart packaging to track the product are the major factors focused upon by the companies. Some of the key points considered while packaging pharmaceutical products are better shelf-life, protecting migration of packaging component into drugs, uniformity of medicine throughout the entire production, and preventing drugs from reacting with oxygen.

Smart pharmaceutical packaging remains a burning issue

Packing drugs includes a lot more than just storing chemical compounds used for diagnosis, or treatment of an ailment. It comprises several other aspects such as manufacturing, distribution, transport, and so on. The pharmaceutical packaging process is highly regulated with some variation based on their region of origin. Moreover, the factors  which the entire pharmaceutical packaging industry relies are more or less the same – efficiency of drugs, improved shelf life, patient’s safety, complete documentation of the process and material used, protecting migration of packaging component into drugs, and preventing  drugs from reacting with external elements such as heat, moisture, air, etc.

Besides these technical criteria, it is equally important for the manufacturing companies to focus on aesthetics. A recent development in pharmaceutical packaging is SmartBottle for dispensing and tracking opioids and container to protect frozen biopharma medicines. It is a drug administration device for pain killers, launched by Ethimedix, a Swiss medical gadget firm. It is a programmable device with a lockbox that controls the doses of opioids analgesics.

Consumer satisfaction is the ultimate goal

Patient engagement is another key point that defines the growth of pharmaceutical manufacturing firms. For instance, senior citizens tend to fail to keep track of their medicines. In such cases, multiple dose blister packaging plays an important role. It packs the required dose in a single blister to avoid confusion and missing of doses. Apart from this, cases when vaccines have to be transported to remote areas it requires temperature-controlled medicine packaging, due to lack of inadequate storage infrastructure.

Moreover, owing to several options in the market with the same generic composition, cost is another important factor for pharmaceutical companies. Some more fundamental factors behind the pharmaceutical packaging are clear information about the packaging, expiry date, the composition of medicine, route of administration, storage condition, and product license number.

What lies in the future?

As the pharmaceutical packaging sector is likely to witness substantial growth in the future, there are certain factors on which the market is foreseen to bank upon for its development.

Serialization: Serialization is assigning a unique and traceable number to every saleable unit. It is one of the most essential requirements in the pharmaceutical packaging sector owing to the splurging demand for several medicines from every corner of the world. Now, serialization is not as simple as it appears to be. The aim of serialization is to keep a check on drug integrity and simplify the track-and-trace methods of the drugs sold across the globe. It creates ripples for the packaging and manufacturing companies and pharmaceutical firms.

To simplify this, firms print 2D barcodes on the packages, vials, and containers. This trend has been gathering pace in Japan for a few years.

♦ Fight Against Counterfeiting: Manufacturing fake medicines is pharmaceutical counterfeiting. It is almost impossible for the manufacturing companies to keep track sales due to a comprehensive network. On the other hand consumers are also lured by low cost and a close-to-the-original packaging. There are hardly any drugs for which there is no fake available in the market.

Some of the effective solutions to overcome counterfeiting are – maintaining proper drug supply chain using blockchain, and serialization of drugs. Several firms are adapting blockchain technology to keep a tight check on the exchange of drugs at every point. Mediledger is a tools created by LinkLab LLC and Chronicled that meets the demand of the DSCSA regulation in the pharmaceutical sector. The US is introducing e-pedigree to prevent drug counterfeit. It helps track and trace of drug consignments. by RFID tagging, where the movements are logged in an xml description.

Environment-Friendly Packaging: Even though, attracting consumer attention and patient engagement still holds importance in pharmaceutical packaging, there is a growing priority towards environment-friendly  products. Of course, the quality of drug and accessibility remains the foremost priority. The best way to find whether pharmaceutical packaging is eco-friendly or not, is to look for eco-labels and check if the product package includes sustainable elements.

Moreover, due to the ever-rising quantity of medical waste, the disposal has become a major concern. This has instigated a need for proper incineration or nature-friendly disposal methods. Then, there are child-resistant release buttons, designed at the corner of packet. These packets are made of paperboard, replaced by plastic resins.

Smart Packaging: Smart pharmaceutical packaging is all about easing production and consumption for both, users and companies. Barcodes, serial number, plastic ampoules, one-time use syringes are some of the common examples. The printed electronics in the healthcare industry has a huge scope to include smart packaging that would provide substantial value.

NFC technology is the latest innovation in the smart packaging sector. The NFC antennas has the ability to track a device remotely, or even allows the mobile to read the health information of a patient. In the pharmaceutical sector, smart packaging provides important data and keeps a check on the product condition based on the environment it will encounter during its supply chain journey.

Packaging Quality And Labelling: Packaging quality is quintessential. Several drugs can react with the packaging material. Hence, it is mandatory to ensure that the material is safe for packaging. For example, some capsules are packed in a glass bottle, whereas, some pills come in blister packs. This is decided on the basis of the nature of drugs and its key ingredients. According to a report by TMR, the global pharmaceutical packaging and labeling services industry is likely to create a huge scope of opportunities for the healthcare companies in the future. By 2023, the market valuation is expected to reach around US$136.27 billion.

Similarly, labeling will also play a vital role in letting the consumer and pharmacist chose medicines for different illnesses. Labeling is important for a consumer to know the shelf life of a drug, for which it needs the expiry date; major ingredients, so that doctor can know if one is allergic to them; precautions, in case the patient is pregnant, or suffering from liver ailments, and so on.

Overall, the packaging industry is undergoing a revolution, which has taken the pharmaceutical sector by storm. Scientists and researchers are rigorously working on the development of advanced solution such that the combination of healthcare and packaging becomes a great duo for the betterment of people and improved medical facilities in the future. Experts are also studying the possibilities of implementing artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IOT) in pharmaceutical packaging. As the demand for medicine grows, their storage and distribution would become prudent. In this scenario, medical packaging holds scope for development in the coming years.

About Author: Smruti Hingnikar is a Senior Content Writer at Transparency Market Research. She writes in the domains of science and technology and healthcare.