Product Focus: Leaders of the pack

Dec. 14, 2020
Packaging and labeling innovations solve emerging challenges in pharma

It’s not just drug manufacturers that are feeling the need for speed. With the entire industry quickly mobilizing to roll out vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, packaging and labeling vendors are accelerating innovations to help ensure there are no bottlenecks in the flow of drug production and delivery.

“COVID-19 forces pharma companies to accelerate time-to-market for vaccine candidates,” says Gene Dul, president of Schreiner MediPharm U.S. “Therefore, labeling specialists with long-standing expertise should provide them with efficient and reliable support.”

Whether it’s labels that aid with clinical trials, technologies that prolong shelf life or innovative containers that help drug products safely reach their destination, packaging and labeling providers are helping ensure these new drug products will efficiently make it to market.

Safe-guarding clinical trials

When conducting blinded clinical trials, the placebo can sometimes differ in color from the drug being tested — posing a challenge to trial providers who must not let participants know which product they are receiving

“In the field of clinical trials, label solutions are required that optimize processes and reliably blind the investigational products while also being suitable for cryogenic applications at extremely low temperatures,” Dul says.

To address this challenge, Schreiner MediPharm has created a novel solution that combines Flexi-Cap, its label that completely covers the vial, and its Booklet-Label product, which offers extensive multilingual product information. According to the company, the special blinding solution is suitable for all kinds of international clinical trials that are conducted with test drugs in transparent containers.

“The solution is extremely flexible since it can be adapted to diverse vial sizes and shapes, while the color of the opaque film caps can also be customized,” Dul says. “Considering the current COVID-19 situation, the Flexi-Cap blinding solution could thus be used for clinical trials for COVID treatments as well as for vaccines.”

Fast, precise labeling

“With hundreds of millions, if not billions, of doses required for COVID treatments and vaccines, there’s a significant push to make sure end-of-line systems are not the slowest common denominator,” says Peter Goff, CEO of HERMA US. “In other words, that they keep up with the escalated throughput demanded in this emergency, expediency-minded situation.”

To that end, HERMA is now offering upgrades for its 132M Wrap-around Labeler. The fast-moving labeling machine, which is capable of handling up to 400 products per minute, is now available with motion control that evenly ramps up and tamps down speeds for improved product handling.

The company says that the 132M Wrap-around Labeler’s turret-based machine features a rotating star wheel for precise product transport, and can be outfitted with a wide range of printing and vision systems. HERMA is also offering a quicker-than-normal delivery of the machine to aid expedited timelines.

“We’re currently outfitting two 132Ms for two different applications relevant to COVID-19, and are delivering the equipment solutions within eight weeks — an incredibly aggressive timeframe for such projects — in a situation that calls for heightened speed with sustained accuracy,” Goff says.

Cold chain cures

Many of the new vaccines that are expected to hit the market will have to be delivered along cold chain networks to protect the stability of the products. Softbox Systems, a global provider of temperature controlled packaging, provides solutions that offer stability while helping protect the planet, too.

Earlier this year, Softbox released Tempcell ECO, a biodegradable, 100 percent curbside recyclable packaging solution designed to transport temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products. The parcel shipper is composed of corrugated cardboard and uses Softbox’s Thermaflute, a patent-pending, plastic-free design that creates an insulating barrier and delivers thermal efficiencies similar to those of traditional expanded polystyrene shippers.

“While plastic-based products, like EPS or Styrofoam, have long been the standard for temperature control packaging, we recognize the growing demand for packaging solutions that are efficient, effective, and eco-friendly,” says Richard Wood, executive director of Technical Solutions for Softbox.

Tempcell ECO comes in various off-the-shelf sizes that are easily customizable, making it a reliable solution for companies that need to routinely ship medicines and want to reduce plastic consumption.

Extending shelf life

Keeping drugs safe and effective for a longer period of time is an ongoing goal for oral solid dose manufacturers. When blister packs are required, advanced barrier film technologies are often sought to extend shelf life. But ACG Engineering has created another solution as well.

According to the company, nitrogen enhanced purging is one of the most effective methods to increase the shelf life of products housed in blister packaging because it infuses fresh nitrogen into the blister cavities, which reduces the oxygen percentage inside the cavity of the blister by up to 10 percent.

ACG now offers a nitrogen purging unit that is installed before the sealing station to infuse dry nitrogen into blister cavities prior to sealing. The amount of pressurized nitrogen can be adjusted with flow control valves.

“Nitrogen purging is a cost-effective solution to maintain the metered oxygen content into the blister cavity by flushing nitrogen, ensuring longer shelf life and safety of the products,” says Pankaj Rachelwar, regional sales manager for ACG.

Top image: The HERMA 132M is the fastest wrap-around labeler of its type on the market. 

About the Author

Meagan Parrish | Senior Editor