The Evolution of Pharmaceutical Packaging

Over the past 25 years, pharma packaging has undergone quite a transformation. To understand just how far it’s come and get a better idea of what’s in demand and necessary today, it’s important to look back on the evolution of pharmaceutical packaging.

These are important steps that have been taken and concepts that have been and continue to be perfected to ensure the most ideal outcomes and packaging solutions. Continue reading to get a better idea of just how far pharmaceutical packing has evolved over the years.

Looking Back on Pharmaceutical Primary Packaging

Packaging technology didn’t get the attention it deserved 25 years ago. This holds true for a variety of industries including food, consumer products, and pharmaceuticals, in addition to many others.

As it relates to the pharma industry specifically, what happened was that packaging fell under the production umbrella. At the same time, development was always categorized and placed within the R&D, Quality Assurance, and Quality Control departments. Pharma wasn’t the only industry where this was taking place, it happened in a variety of other industries as well.

Not only were there no packaging experts per se, but a qualified and trained packaging team never existed. The entire process was included within production and R&D and packaging was always merely a subsection of these in many organisations.   

The Development of New Products

It’s important to keep in mind; however, that packaging technology should always have a place within new product development and supply chains. Whenever a person or consumer is about to purchase a drug, the packaging is what they interact with first. Packaging becomes important as it relates to patient compliance or consumer convenience within the new product development process.

Then in the 90s, pharma packaging started to gain more attention. This was due to many factors, including but not limited to:

·         Globalisation

·         Growing export market

·         Regulatory requirements

·         Competition

·         Revolution in digital technology, mergers, acquisitions

·         Growing customer needs and expectations for continuous improvements leading to innovations

·         Stricter FDA regulations

With all of this came the process of evolution along with the journey from packing to packaging technology. The transformation meant that there was more to the packing function than simply holding and carrying and transporting the product. It’s impossible to compare the evolution of pharmaceutical packaging to other industries since pharma has stringent, critical, and systemic processes for product releases.

A Need for Evolution

It soon became apparent that there was a need for evolution within the pharma industry. With globalisation and enhanced regulatory requirements, the packaging experts must always be adapting and evolving to come up with solutions that are cost-effective, have barriers against contamination, and bring the brand image to life, all while operating as a key tool that influences channels of distribution. A packaging technologist now has many more and different responsibilities than what they had years ago.  

Unlike in the past, today packaging technology is its own department and independent operation. It’s no longer simply a day-to-day function that falls within Quality Control. Currently, it plays a vital role in all developments and functions separately from the other departments. Research expanded and the number of packaging materials grew with the more involved role of the packaging professionals.

Nowadays the process revolves around the following goals:

·         Containing the product and avoiding spillage or leaking

·         Protecting the product from damage or contamination

·         Identifying and presenting the brand

·         Protecting during transport and ease of transport

·         Stacking and storage requirements

The Process of Evolution

There were several areas in which pharma packaging technology began to transform and change. These include elements such as:

·         Types of packaging materials and the quality of them

·         Printing technology advancements

·         Improved process of vendor evaluation

·         Digital technology

·         Automation process

The packaging materials are stronger and more robust, holograms and micro text are present, and modern packaging takes into consideration design and the amount of waste. There’s now a need and demand for eco-friendly materials and rules and regulations to follow. Labelling must always be correct because otherwise errors lead to delays in product launches, recalls, and ultimately a loss of money. Government agencies around the world have strict regulatory policies for food packaging designs and require child-resistant closures to ensure their safety.

Examples of Evolution in Packaging

It may help to review some examples of evolution in packaging to get a better idea of what has been modified and improved. For instance, blister packaging made for better barrier properties of the product and therefore a longer shelf-life, while cartoning streamlined the packaging operations and eliminated the chance of human error. When it comes to heavy-weight items, case packing became the foundation of the supply-chain, and packaging material auto inspection systems on printing machines can identify errors during the process. There were also advancements in logistics and the emergence of cold chain packaging which some products require.

Measure Brand Evolutions through Packaging

There are also some examples of brand evolutions through the improved packaging processes and technologies. For instance, insulin injections normally were administered using glass vials but are now available as prefilled syringes or as pumps. In turn, the Insulin Pen was chosen by many and preferred over traditional injection devices. Also, the primary pack for the Crocin tablet has come a long way such as the PVC used in blisters for each category is different such as blue, red, and yellow respectively. This is helpful in segregating packs during production, identifying on-the-shelf displays, and creating a strong brand identity. There have also been herbal balms that went from being packaged in heavy glass bottles to plastic bottles and tamper-evident caps.

The Boom of the E-Commerce Industry & the Idea of Ease

Convenience is more important than ever to consumers in today’s busy world. Therefore, pharma packaging innovations are always focused on the idea of ease. Some ways this is achieved nowadays is with smaller packaging, single-use options, closable function, microwaveable options, and made easy to pour, close, and open. With e-commerce, comes the need for smart and strong secondary packaging to shipping the goods. Thus, came the emergence of cartons and shippers and the revolution of secondary and tertiary packs. The products must be properly and effectively protected and kept safe during transit, so came a demand for the cushion factor.

It’s all about being able to protect products and keep them from breaking or being tampered with during the shipping process. This proposed many challenges to the industry. Packaging costs need to be controlled which is done using the optimum-sized packaging.

Another advancement and transformation taking place is that of flexibles. For example, stand-up pouches or pillow pouches are now becoming the desired packaging solution. The reason being is that they have improved barrier properties. What this means is a longer shelf-life, less material usage and waste, better retail display, and advantages with transportation.

In fact, flexible packaging is quickly becoming the fastest-growing packaging segment and solution. However, the dilemma is the downside of its recyclability. Many of the laminated structures can’t be recycled and end up as waste. Properly recycling practices and options need to be accounted for but continue to pose a challenge to creators. There’s a strong chance that “how to recycle” instructions on the package will soon be included in the artwork of the product and label.

What This All Means

The packaging challenges that come with the pharma industry are only beginning and will without a doubt continue to become more challenging over time. They are only going to get more complicated in the future. The increase in demand for different and better packaging products will only grow in need with the rising global population, changes in diet habits across the world, exchange of culture, and demand for green packaging.

The trends and evolutions that are here to stay within pharmaceutical packaging are the efforts for lighter, more eco-friendly, and attractive and protective solutions. Environmental factors, as well as sustainability, will only continue to play a bigger role in packaging development as time goes on. The concentration will be on introducing green or recyclable packaging that won’t add to pollution problems.

Who We Are & What we do

Here at Design Innovation Development (DiD), we became aware that there was a gap in the market for a full-service packaging design, innovation, and development agency for the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare businesses. Our team creates the visuals but then we also remove the issues that come with modern packaging and develop solutions in our on-site production facility.

Our expert team is made up of development specialists with a great deal of industry knowledge and engineers who use the latest technology to solve today’s most complex problems. What we do is combine safe science with thoughtful creation, which allows us to deliver products that are smart, effective, safe, and designed to offer exceptional results with authentic consumer benefits. 

We also understand the importance of safety when it comes to your children. Therefore, we have child-resistant design solutions that work. We’re proud to share that the innovators and developers at DiD are leaders in the engineering of advanced child-resistant packaging design, which ensures that families around the world are protected against the natural curiosity of all young children.

Benefits of Working with Us

There are many benefits of working with DiD that you should know about. For starters, we have a wide range of expertise and extensive knowledge in developing innovative packaging. Our team is highly trained and together brings over 60 years of experience in pharmaceutical packaging. We also serve many sectors and markets such as fragrance, healthcare, cosmetics, and personal care. Our production capabilities include the latest cleanroom technology, which helps drive innovative and sustainable packaging development solutions.

We offer industry expertise and will always collaborate to deliver quality products. We have leading chemists and industry experts with a specialism in natural and organic ingredients and will always come up with packaging designs that are tested for safety and deliver exceptional results. We pride ourselves on offering smart, safe, and effective products that you’ll be more than satisfied with.

We take each project seriously and know that each client’s needs are different. While we have an expert process in place we also know that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to pharmaceutical packaging. This is why we take the time to listen to your needs and goals and come up with a solution that is bespoke and effective. We also have quality assurance and accreditations that will give you peace of mind that we know what we are doing and will always work within the rules and regulations of the industry.

How We Can Help

We have a packaging design development process that allows us to better serve each client we work with. We are a full-service design, innovation, and development agency for healthcare and pharmaceutical companies that are fully dedicated to bringing you the results you desire. Our services include primary packaging that’s designed around the consumer.

Through our process, we can achieve high-quality packaging design development that covers all the necessary safety specifications and international standards. Our team will take the time to engage and understand your needs, offer limitless support along the way, and are a dedicated group of experts who will help you effectively package and perfect your product.

Getting in Touch

We are ready and eager to help you with your new packaging development project. Our team is also happy to answer any questions you have about our services or company. Get in contact with us today so we can get the conversation started.

No matter the nature of your healthcare or pharma product, we have the skills, facilities, and supply chain knowledge that it’ll take to go to market speedily and effectively. From medicine and antiseptic to vitamins and CBD, we are committed to designing, innovating, and developing the ultimate packaging solution that will exceed your expectations.

To get started, get in touch today at +44 (0)1482 638380 or fill in our contact form.