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New options for pharmaceutical tubes enhance functionality, sustainability, and brand identity.
Rising demand for tubes, which are a popular choice for dermatological products, is helping fuel a projected compound annual growth rate of 5.46% for the packaging format between 2020 and 2025, according to a market study by Mordor Intelligence (1). Tubes address a myriad of needs for viscous pharmaceutical products. Recent developments center on enhanced barrier structures and sustainability, more functional dispensing closures and applicators, brand-building labeling and decorating, Braille printing, and variable printing.
As demand grows, manufacturers are expanding capacity. ALLTUB Group recently added to its laminate tube production capacity with the startup of an ISO 15378 GMP-certified production line in an ISO 8 (Class 100,000) cleanroom space at its manufacturing operation in Langenfeld, Germany (2). The Langenfeld operation also has invested in a production line for small-diameter (13.5, 19, and 30-mm) tubes, reportedly the first 13.5-mm diameter capability in the European market (3).
Another Europe-headquartered tube maker, Hoffmann Neopac, established its first US manufacturing operation in 2019. The 37,000-ft2 plant in Wilson, NC, has space for several high-speed tube production lines. Its first production line has an annual capacity of 80 million units and primarily produces small-diameter tubes such as the 13.5-mm Twist’n’use tube, a tamper-evident, small-volume single-dose design. Once the cap is twisted, the tube is irrevocably opened (4).
Also tamper-evident, the SpringTube design from 3D Neopac, a Hoffmann Neopac subsidiary, features a push-on polyethylene flip-top cap and maintains its shape during use. Available in fill volumes from 40–300 mL, the tubes can be produced with an ethylene vinyl alcohol barrier layer and decorated via digital, flexo, or metallic foil processes. Variable printing can individualize each container at the unit level. Colored or metallized cap options further enhance brand identity (5).
The squeezable nature of tubes opens the door to custom dispensing. To provide a cleaner, more hygienic way to apply pain relief medicine, GlaxoSmithKline, Nypro, and Hoffmann Neopac collaborated on a “No Mess” thin-walled tube and applicator for Voltaren gel (diclofenac topical). An intuitive pull/push mechanism allows the massage tip to close by itself after the application and minimizes gel residue on the skin. A handle makes it easier for consumers to apply the gel to their back and shoulders. Other features include a tamper-evident TopStar closure (6).
An applicator-equipped tube for Canesten cream (clotrimazole topical), an athlete’s foot treatment from Bayer Consumer Health, earned a German Packaging Award in 2019 from the Deutsches Verpackungsinstitut in Berlin. The soft thermoplastic elastomer applicator on the Polyfoil barrier tube from Hoffmann Neopac eases application even to the skin between the toes. A ribbed, rotating ring prevents leakage, protects the product, and simplifies use for all age groups. An On/Off marking indicates whether the applicator is open or closed (6).
To simplify dosing of preservative-free ophthalmic drops and prevent contamination of the product during days, weeks, or even months of use, Aptar Pharma and Hoffmann Neopac have developed the SteriDrop tube. When the Polyfoil tube from Neopac is squeezed, the mechanical dispensing system from Aptar Pharma releases a precisely measured drop and prevents any liquid from flowing back into the tube. Caps and flow rates can be customized to meet the required drop formation (6).
Tube manufacturers also are addressing the need for more sustainable structures. Berry Global Group can incorporate post-consumer recycled (PCR) resin in its recently introduced oval tube. The two-inch tube is extruded, formed, and decorated at its vertically integrated manufacturing facility in Easthampton, MA, and is available with premium decoration including silk screen with up to eight colors, and up to five colors with cold foil (7).
CCL Tube, part of CCL Industries, also offers a structure with PCR content. Its Earthtube can contain up to 70% PCR resin in the tube sleeve and head. A three-layer extrusion sandwiches the PCR layer between virgin layers to separate it from the tube’s contents and is compatible with premium decorating and labeling (8).
Essel Propack introduced the Platina 250 and Green Maple Leaf 300 Lamitubes in November 2019. The sustainable designs feature a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) barrier structure that meets or exceeds recyclability guidance from the Association of Plastic Recyclers and are recyclable in the #2 HDPE recycling stream. The stiffness of the HDPE also permits resource-conserving downgauging. The two recyclable designs join another sustainable offering from Essel Propack, the Etain tube, which features up to 25% PCR content (9).
Hoffmann Neopac offers an EcoDesign portfolio (10) and also plans to launch a recyclable barrier tube before the end of 2020. The Polyfoil MMB (mono-material barrier) tube consists of more than 95% PE with inks, adhesives, and barrier layers that do not negatively affect recycling. A thin-wall structure means a weight reduction of up to 40% compared to standard Polyfoil tubes with aluminum barrier layers. “Technology must play a role in meeting higher recycling standards, and mono-material barrier tubes will represent a sizable step forward in packaging science,” said Martina Christiansen, director Sales Tubes Neopac, in a press release (11).
1. Mordor Intelligence, “Tube Packaging Market–Growth, Trends, and Forecast (2020-2025),” www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/tube-packaging-market, accessed June 1, 2020.
2. ALLTUB Group, “New Cleanroom Production for Laminate Tubes,” Press Release, April 1, 2019.
3. ALLTUB Group, “New Small Diameter Capability for Laminate Tubes,” Press Release, April 1, 2019.
4. Hoffmann Neopac, “Neopac Opens First US Facility with Site Tours and Demos of High-Speed Tube Production Line,” Press Release, May 20, 2019.
5. Hoffmann Neopac, “At Pharmapack, Neopac to Showcase SpringTube for Skin Health Products,” Press Release, June 1, 2020.
6. Hoffmann Neopac, “Neopac Wins Three Prestigious Healthcare Sector Packaging Awards,” Press Release, Sept. 16, 2019.
7. Berry Global Group, “Berry Global Introduces Oval Tube Assembled in the United States,” Press Release, Feb. 26, 2020.
8. CCL Industries, “Tubes-Earthtube (PCR),” https://ccllabel.com/portfolios/tubes-earthtube-pcr/, accessed June 1, 2020.
9. Essel Propack, “Essel Propack Unveils Recyclable Tube Packaging-Platina and Green Maple Leaf Lamitubes,” Press Release, Nov. 4, 2019.
10. H. Forcinio, Pharm. Tech. 44 (1) 63-65 (2020).
11. Hoffmann Neopac, “Continuing Sustainability Efforts, Neopac Moves Toward Mono-Material Barrier Tubes Designed for Recyclability,” Press Release, May 13, 2020.