Packaging vendors for pharma products have a lot more to offer these days than a simple bottle. Now, a range of new packaging products can help manufacturers with traceability efforts and extend the shelf life of their products. Shifting consumer habits are also driving innovations in packaging.
“Today’s consumers have places to go, people to see, and things to do — and they want to take their medicines and supplements with them,” says Karolina Kartus, associate marketing manager for Constantia Flexibles. “In addition to embracing more mobility and convenience, today’s healthcare consumers are considerably more savvy.”
Here’s a look at some of the crafty ways packaging and labeling vendors aren’t just helping manufacturers meet regulatory compliance standards, but are also making packages safer and easier for consumers than ever before.
More than just a blister pack
After Constantia Flexibles heard feedback from end-users in a series of workshops geared toward understanding how consumers feel about packaging, the company innovated a new line of blister packs designed for convenience.
“Conventional blister packs that offer portable-friendly features caught the interest of consumers,” Kartus explains.
The company’s Flexible Blister is now designed as a combo blister and strip pack. Although it is child-resistant and senior friendly, the package is bendable so that it can be easily rolled up and carried around without fear of contamination or damage. Constantia’s design also utilizes the space on the front and back of the primary packaging for drug information, and personalized patient instructions can be printed into each cavity of the pack.
The new design is also light-weight, which helps consumers and manufacturers alike.
“In terms of benefits for shipping and point of sale, the Flexible Blister reduces total weight per pack as well as final pack volume, allowing us to be more efficient and economical with shelf space and transportation costs,” Kartus says.
Packaging can also play a critical role in meeting the increased need for better product stability.
“As pharma formulations become increasingly complex and customized, we’re seeing an uptick in oral solid dosage medicines that have a larger-than-average sensitivity to environmental factors such as moisture, oxygen or other gases,” Tom Stringer, director of Technical Sales for Aptar CSP Technologies, says. “A need exists to quickly determine the exact packaging requirements for sensitive products and, from there, to get them approved and into the marketplace as expediently as possible.”
With that goal in mind, Aptar CSP innovated its XCelerate packaging services that utilize the company’s Activ-Blister solutions. The company says that XCelerate is a “right-first-time” approach to stability challenges and blister package design that virtually eliminates protracted testing and costly reformulations.
Aptar CSP’s Activ-Blister solutions work by controlling the internal atmosphere of individual blister cavities, which improves product performance and enhances shelf life. The company uses proprietary three phase polymer technology, as well as engineered materials that absorb customized amounts of water vapor, oxygen, and/or volatile compounds.
Combating opioid misuse
Blister packs have also become a major line of defense against the ongoing opioid crisis.
“Studies show that most patients use significantly fewer opioid pain medication pills than prescribed, so the FDA is fittingly encouraging ‘right-size’ prescribing,” Ward Smith, director of marketing and business development at Keystone Folding Box Co., says. “This would not only combat misuse, abuse and potential addiction but also reduce the number of people unnecessarily exposed to opioids, including children. The FDA sees fixed-quantity unit-of-use blister packages as a key component to accomplishing this goal.”
Keystone’s Ecoslide-RX was introduced in response to efforts by the FDA and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices to implement product packaging changes that deter opioid abuse. Now, its modified, customizable version of its Ecoslide-RX prescription blister packaging helps limit dosages, discourage pill theft and improve dispensing safety.
As a bonus, the Ecoslide-RX is also eco-friendly and comprised of 100 percent recyclable paperboard, which separates easily from its internal blister for recycling.
On your marks
As traceability requirements increase for pharma, manufacturers are tasked with fitting more information onto products and packaging labels. This can be an especially challenging for viral coding, as many sterilization processes happen downstream of the coding station.
“Pharma manufacturers are challenged by traceability requirements that often demand all products be marked with a unique identifier,” explains Timothy Kearns, sales manager, Pharmaceutical and Medical Device at Videojet Technologies.
Videojet’s new 7230 and 7330 fiber laser solutions help manufacturers clear this hurdle by offering a compact and adaptable system that’s capable of permanently marking high resolution 2D barcodes and alphanumeric text on vial closures and other components.
According to Kearns, the new fiber lasers are 44 percent lighter than similar models and provide integration flexibility through several enhanced features. The new models also mark codes faster on more products than previous Videojet fiber lasers, due to a combination of improved data processing and marking speeds up to 2,000 characters per second, depending on the application.