New Instructions for the Pharmaceutical Packaging Industry

1 June 2009 (Last Updated June 1st, 2009 18:30)

Pharmaceutical packaging has evolved a great deal in recent years and now companies are searching for new methods of ensuring that patient information leaflets are kept conveniently with the medicine at all times.

New Instructions for the Pharmaceutical Packaging Industry

As the packaging sector has continued to evolve through technology and innovation, manufacturers have been able to play a more essential role in developing pharmaceutical packaging capable of improving patient safety and promoting better health. In particular, the industry has developed a growing focus on improving ‘compliance’ – monitoring that people take their medicine as and when they should.

Pharmaceutical companies have steadily recognised that improving patient compliance is healthy for both revenues and patients. Governments are also increasingly assessing the effectiveness and financial benefits of medication, which makes it all the more important to pharmaceutical companies that patients use their products as intended.

One way to improve compliance is to ensure that the patient information leaflet is conveniently kept with the medicine at all times. Recently, pharmaceutical packaging companies have been exploring new methods and designs to ensure such a policy remains.

Burgopak finds the right balance

In this respect, UK-based packaging firm Burgopak proves a particularly relevant case study. Entering the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 league table in 2008 after achieving record sales of £5.26m, the company has developed a set of single and double blister packs incorporating its patented sliding mechanism.

"In a one-slide motion, the pack opens to reveal 12 tablets in two separate blisters."

The patented mechanism has been developed in order to keep the patient information booklet, blisters and outer carton connected at all times. Marketed as "user friendly and portable", the packs are said to make retrieving medicine a one-step rather than a three-step process where essential information is always clearly displayed whenever the product is used. It is also deemed as a useful mechanism for preventing the counterfeiting of products.

While the modern pharmaceutical packaging industry has been encouraged to evolve the concept of compliance by any available means, it also faces the tough test of finding the right balance between "senior friendly accessibility" and child resistance.

Burgopak believes its new packaging concept meets all three criteria – improved compliance, child resistance and senior friendliness.

To support the company’s child resistant and senior friendly claim, it has achieved the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s seal of approval for the product. This is likely to also help the company’s quest of launching the child-resistant pharmaceutical packaging style in the US market. A new partnership with RxPak, a division of the US-based McKesson Corp, will enable Burgopak to introduce its product to the American market in 2010.

The partnership revolves around RxPak using a Burgopak machine for automated blister production. Built by Bosch Sigpack Systems in Switzerland, the fully automated machine is reportedly designed for high volume pharmaceutical packaging production and has a function that allows for flexibility in blister design.

At a blistering pace

"It is also deemed as a useful mechanism for preventing the counterfeiting of products."

The UK pharmaceutical industry spends an estimated £3.3bn each year on researching and developing better drugs, and a further £850m on promoting them. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, fulfilling patient compliance is a key imperative, and the blister pack is proving to be a preferred dispensing mechanism for pharmaceutical manufacturers, with a gradual move away from bottles.

Burgopak currently offers single and double blister, and other friendly designs that can be customised to accommodate most pill, blister or leaflet sizes. The ‘pocket pack’ design has already been adopted by brands such as Bayer’s Rennie ICE, a new heartburn and indigestion product.

In a one-slide motion, the pack opens to reveal 12 tablets in two separate blisters. It aims to provide a highly portable product for consumers, together with sufficient space for the Rennie ICE branding. The new packs have been manufactured using the Bosch Sigpack machine, which has been recently unveiled at Brecon Pharmaceuticals in Wales.

Burgopak’s patented ‘slider’ mechanism is also used by companies around the world on a wide range of products, such as mobile phones, SIM cards, cosmetics, confectionery, USB sticks, CDs and DVDs. It remains to be seen, however, how valuable the concept will be for Burgopak’s pharmaceutical packaging aspirations and the wider pharmaceutical industry in general.

A version of this article first appeared in our sister publication Packaging Today.