Packaging Trends - Pharmaceutical Technology

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PharmTech Europe

Packaging Trends
Security, the environment, aging populations, the bio-boom, and cost control are just a few of the drivers that will influence pharmaceutical packaging for the remainder of this decade.

Pharmaceutical Technology

The all-encompassing Sustainability 360 program sets high expectations for suppliers, who are required to participate in the retailer's "Packaging Scorecard" rating system. The system compares packaging in each product segment according to greenhouse-gas generation per ton of production, product–package ratio, cube utilization, recycled content, recovery value, and design innovation. The ratings will help identify best practices, enable the sourcing of products with the most environmentally benign packaging, and achieve the retailer's goal of a 5% reduction in overall packaging by 2013. "The impact of this packaging effort will be equal to removing 213,000 trucks from the road and saving about 324,000 tons of coal and 67 million gallons of diesel fuel per year," said Scott. "This is great for the environment. But there's also a business advantage—and a pretty big one. We believe this effort could save the global supply chain nearly $11 billion. Our supply chain alone could save $3.4 billon."

The Sustainability 360 program also includes an ethical-sourcing initiative that calls on suppliers to reduce their own environmental footprint. The retailer already has dedicated 200 workers to monitoring ethical sourcing and has begun auditing suppliers' performances related to activities such as processing, recycling, and disposing of solid waste. The company makes recommendations for improvement and reviews progress.

Another new program, "Global Innovation Projects," will encourage suppliers to reduce their dependence on nonrenewable energy in making their products.

Stability protection

As the number of relatively delicate biotechnology-based products expands, the demand for barrier packaging, seal-integrity test equipment, insulated distribution packaging, and cold-chain monitoring tools will grow. With some products costing thousands of dollars per dose, companies have little room for error in packaging, transportation, and storage. Proper handling can be especially challenging in developing countries where refrigeration may not be readily available.

Senior-friendly packaging

The need for senior-friendly packaging has been discussed for decades. Unfortunately, senior-friendly products often are not child-resistant, so some seniors ask younger neighbors to come over when they need to open a medicine bottle. Now that the over-85 age group is the most rapidly growing segment of the population in many developed countries, and members of the baby-boom generation are reaching their sixties (an age when many people begin taking multiple prescriptions each day to treat chronic conditions), it's time to bring new senior-friendly solutions to market. Companies also should design packaging with better compliance aids to help people take their medication correctly, especially when they are managing more than one prescription.

Improvements in senior-friendly and compliance packaging also will benefit all consumers.

Cost control

Because cost control directly affects the bottom line, it is essential for any successful company. It is especially important for organizations that make substantial investments in research and development and are in highly regulated industries in which compliance consumes a significant number of resources.

Typical cost-control measures include careful specification and sourcing of packaging materials and may encompass strategies such as downgauging or lightweighting materials, standardizing sizes, and minimizing the number of variations.

When sourcing equipment for the packaging line, companies should carefully consider machine efficiency, labor requirements, and changeover time. In fact, attention to changeover can pay off quickly, because downtime costs easily can add up to thousands of dollars per hour. Major time savers include servo motors, drives, and controls that automate physical adjustments, toolless adjustments and part-changes, quick-connect–disconnect hardware, and clean-in-place equipment (although the latter may not be applicable for solid dosage forms).

Other strategies include standardizing changeover procedures, storing change parts in order of use on dedicated change-part carts, color-coding change parts, and equipping anything measurable with a scale so settings are repeatable. On higher-speed lines, it can be helpful to incorporate features such as redundant labeling heads to quickly replace an empty label roll. The unit simply switches to the second labeling head, and the empty head can be refilled while the line is running. An enlarged carton magazine provides a similar benefit by reducing the number of times the operator must refill it.


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