Packaging Delivers: 2015 Pharma Packaging Trends

For the pharmaceutical industry, what's on the outside counts as much as what's on the inside

By Steven E. Kuehn, Editor in Chief

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It's hard to understate the critical role pharmaceutical packaging plays in ensuring the efficient distribution and eventually, the safe consumption of the world's drug supply. Much of where the category is today (and all that it brings to Pharma) stems from an amazing confluence of operational and technological wisdom gained from years and years of applicational experience across all sectors of the industrial landscape.

Seriously essential, packaging has always delivered, but in 2015 it's being asked to deliver even more to meet Pharma's ever-expanding demand for packaging solutions. From the materials and science associated with primary packaging, to the increasing sophistication and integration of drug delivery platforms and single-dose-unit forms, packaging is playing an increasingly integral role supporting the medical success of a given compound.

 

World pharmaceutical packaging demand, says The Freedonia Group, will increase 6.4 percent annually to $90 billion in 2017. According to Freedonia's "World Pharmaceutical Packaging" report, "Based on the operation of extensive and diverse drug-producing industries, Western Europe, the U.S. and Japan will account for nearly 60 percent of this amount." Not surprisingly, the report notes countries like India and China will experience the fastest product demand growth from "rapidly expanding pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities, burgeoning drug exports, and the phasing-in of an extensive government program designed to upgrade the quality and integrity of nationally produced medicines." Who's coming up the fastest? Brazil, Mexico and Turkey were identified as fast-growing pharmaceutical packaging product markets.

As per usual, the U.S. will remain the largest market for pharmaceutical packaging "as its advanced drug-producing sector introduces new, sophisticated therapies with specialized packaging needs." Freedonia notes growth in West European demand will reflect government standards requiring unit-dose, high-barrier and security packaging for many types of medications. Japan, says the report, will also continue to provide a large, diverse market for pharmaceutical packaging.

FAST GROWTH PREDICTED FOR PREFILLABLE SYRINGES
Global demand for primary pharmaceutical containers, says Freedonia's analysts, will increase 6.6 percent annually to over $57 billion in 2017. Prefillable syringes, notes the report, will be in high demand, and the list of suppliers and vendors pursuing the potential revenue from this category are becoming legion; Becton Dickinson , Gerresheimer, SCHOTT, Vetter and West (to name just a few top players) are all positioning themselves strategically and operationally to deliver solutions to meet this burgeoning demand.

Demand for prefillable, injectable, single unit dose forms is being driven by a number of factors but Freedonia and others point out the advances in the biotechnology sector will mean a steady stream of parenteral therapies requiring prefillable solutions to deliver these therapies to consumers. West Pharmaceutical Packaging Systems' Mike Schaefers notes his company is seeing growing demand from customers for pure, high-quality packaging components for injectable biologics and biosimilars. "Many biotech and sensitive drug products have unique requirements, and polymer systems provide key solutions for patient safety and compliance," says Schaefers. "There are a variety of products on the market that can help mitigate these risks, including barrier films for elastomer components that help to reduce potential extractables and leachables formation," he says, but "for materials that are sensitive to glass, cyclic olefin polymers can be molded into a variety of shapes and sizes to accommodate not only the drug product, but also large-volume doses. In addition, cyclic olefins can be molded to suit innovative delivery devices, offering differentiation in the market." Ultimately, says Freedonia, that megatrend will also fuel "above average growth" in demand for parenteral vials and ampoules because the category will increase demand for those vessels as well.

MESSAGE IN THE BOTTLE
Despite increasing competition from highly engineered, unit-dose and prefillable solutions, plastic bottles will "remain the most widely used package globally for oral drugs distributed in bulk," notes Freedonia's report. Plastic bottle's penetration into Over-the-Counter (OTC) packaging will continue because many OTC medicines are sold in oral solid dose forms and in quantities of 50 or more.

Blister packaging is a rising star and Freedonia's study confirms this. Blister packaging of single doses are at the forefront of how Pharma is responding to the market and regulator's demand to improve dose compliance and therefore safety — not to mention the overall efficacy and improved outcomes of therapies administered this way. "Blister packs are becoming more popular as they can improve patient compliance and can be customized to fit a product design due to the availability of a broad range of materials and multiple configuration options," notes Gordon Haines, Rottendorf Pharmaceuticals' CEO. Rottendorf packages more than 3 billion tablets, capsules and pills a year on nine blister lines and two bottle lines. "Blister packs also protect product integrity, allowing patients to select one pill at a time while leaving the others untouched," says Haines, "as opposed to bottles where a patient might dump out a handful of pills in order to select just one."

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