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As the pharma packaging world becomes more personalized, what does it mean?

14 Dec 2020

With a value of more than $1,000 billion in 2019 and enjoying a 5% increase during that year, the global pharmaceutical sector is in good health. But it is also a moving universe, in which both the digital and design revolutions have changed the game over the last ten years. What are the drivers?

Dr. Pascale Gauthier

Pharmacist, PhD, Faculty of Pharmacy Clermont-Ferrand, Auvergne University

First of all, it should not be forgotten that this medical world is a really particular one, highly regulated with the real user, the patient placed at the end of the chain. What is more, there is a large age range of patients, from babies and children to adults and the elderly. While the ‘Z generation’ are growing up with the internet as an essential tool, this is largely not the case for elderly patients, the largest consumers of medicines. In all cases, dosage forms need to be studied and adapted; after all, the efficiency of a drug form depends on it being correctly administered.

This is directly in relation to compliance, acting in concordance with advice (given by the prescriber), that remains passive and episodic (a huge issue with more than 50% with chronic diseases not complying, according to World Health Organisation studies). Adherence, an increasingly used term, refers to the persistence a patient sticks to a therapeutic regimen, and remains active and continuous. Each patient remains the sole actor of the treatment, which should be easily accepted and followed. Functional design, which arrived in the mid-2000’s, has improved ease of use, and encouraged patients to use medicines, in direct relation with compliance. Packaging is now fully established as a real partner of the drug form. After early drug packaging -- which merely contained and protected the product -- came anti-counterfeiting packaging. And now we have arrived at the era of smart packaging that should be combined with new treatment approaches and new drug forms.

Over the next ten years, immunotherapy, genetical medicine and use of Car T-cells, regenerative medicine, microbiota, and artificial intelligence will be seen as numerous new therapeutic challenges. Understanding treatments and using them correctly, as well as reconstitution or self-administration, are all new regular systems, so the pharmaceutical industry should adapt drug forms that follow these new requirements, as well as embrace a sustainable approach, another unavoidable obligation.

For example, Credence Medsystems, whose Credence Companion® Safety Syringe System won the Innovation Award at Pharmapack Europe in 2015, is going one step further with Credence Connect™, an auto-Sensing injection System which boasts automatic real-time monitoring of critical injection data into a reusable ergonomic finger grip.

Another example, mixing the ‘more with less’ is the electronic nasal spray Safe’n Spray™ device (locking, monitoring) that provides a unique possibility to reuse.

A sustainable option is Boehringer Ingelheim’s Respimat® re-usable inhaler device, which  won the 2020 Pharmapack Eco-Design Award, and can be used with up to six cartridges (reducing up to 73% plastic waste) that fully maintains quality and spray performance.

The ‘less is better‘ is again evident  in Huhtamaki’s Push Tab® packaging, an innovative child-safe alternative for opening strip packaging, which won the 2020 Pharmapack Best Innovation in Primary Packaging Award.

Push Tab® is made from recyclable polyolefin laminate, a material completely without PVC, and makes it easy to remove tablets simply by applying pressure.

And the Rondo Augmented Reality App is a digitally integrated smart packaging solution which proves to be a gateway to bundled valuable information about medication, great for simplifying the patient’s life.

So there are numerous systems which offer a good combination of technical innovation and personalization that should be the winning team in this new generation of drug packaging, which ultimately should allow for a rethinking of the patient’s place and role in the care process, for sure an exciting story to follow. 

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