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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Prescription for Innovation

The constant need for innovation in the way we package products for the pharmaceutical and healthcare markets is being led by a number of different factors, including regulatory pressure, safety protocols and consumer-led demands for ease of use. But what is currently being done to meet these changing needs?

Legislation has been behind one of the key initiatives within pharma packaging in recent years, particularly regarding the size and content of patient information leaflets. In addition to stipulating minimum font sizes for design and ease of readability, information now has to be multi-lingual.

Compact Formats

This has necessitated major investment in new technology to handle the printing and folding of larger format leaflets to accommodate this increase in detail. It has also led to finding more creative ways to fold these leaflets to provide a compact size, suitable for insertion on high-speed lines.

These include leaflet formats such as the PiggyBack™ and Triple PiggyBack™, which comprise two or three folded leaflets glued back-to-back to provide maximum printing space in a compact design – giving double or triple the space for comprehensive medical and patient information in a legible typeface size. State-of-the-art folding technology means that PiggyBack leaflets enable customers to fulfil legislative regulations cost-effectively with the maximum printing area and minimum fold size.

Another format is Plurium™ – a multipage booklet which offers more space for information but is compact when folded. This design makes it possible to display – within the same leaflet – text in multiple languages, divided into sections; different coloured pages to highlight specific information; and separate sections for various individuals, such as the patient, doctor or pharmacist, in addition to a form for repeat prescriptions.

Falsified Medicines Directive

Another legislative driver in the pharma sector is the Falsified Medicines Directive. With this EU directive set to come into force in 2016, there are significant demands on the industry to both verify authenticity and demonstrate tamper evidence.

While much of the focus is on pack serialisation, tamper evidence is also a key component of the directive – meaning there will be greater opportunities for packaging and the use of foils, labels, tapes and overwraps, together with creative carton or pack design. New technology will also enable the introduction of additional overt and covert security measures to ensure product integrity and work against counterfeiting and falsification.

One way to prevent counterfeit problems – adopted by many pharma companies – is to integrate security within the product packaging. In the healthcare market, cartons, labels, overwraps, specialised tear tape and other forms of containment can now hold a variety of technologies.

Bespoke packaging solutions can also carry a number of sophisticated brand protection devices, including layering overt and covert authentication and tamper evidence technologies alongside brand design features.

Carton Innovations

Moving away from legislative demands, other innovations are also playing their part in meeting market requirements. One example which addresses this issue is the Parenteral Paper Pack (PPP) – a specialist carton made from recyclable cartonboard that delivers a new concept in display boxes designed specifically for fragile items, such as vials, bottles and syringes.

The PPP range comprises two different products to suit customers’ requirements: BESTray™ (boardenhanced solid tray), suitable for small display boxes requiring very high production speed (up to 250-300 doses per minute); and HELPack™ (handlingenhanced location packaging), suitable for very large display boxes (up to 50-60 trays per minute).

Among the benefits are the fact that instructions about the medicine and dosage details can be included for the end-user; the unique design provides protection for vials, bottles and syringes in an economical way; and using cartonboard means that the pack is recyclable.

Leaflet cartons, in which the leaflet is glued to the carton, are another way to combine packaging with information in one compact format for the consumer.

Complementary Solutions

Safety and ease of use are also major, yet contradictory, challenges facing the pharma packaging industry. Producing packaging that is easy to open and close – particularly for the over 55s, who make up 75% of people taking medicines – is a key objective; but at the other end of the scale, it is necessary to make child-resistant closures for safety reasons.

It is important, therefore, that all packaging manufacturers demonstrate a commitment to delivering a global range of complementary solutions covering the key functions of effective packaging – opening, closing, informing and protecting – to drive the focus towards both customer and consumer needs.

Dosage Details

Patient compliance is another issue to contend with. However, progress is being made in this area, with companies exploring packaging solutions to help consumers identify the right medicine to use and the correct dosage to take.

Solutions include blister pack foils or cold forms printed with days of the week or numbers as a memory jogger, or colour-coded packs to highlight dosage details to consumers.

Label Formats

Innovative label formats are increasingly being used by pharma and healthcare companies to both deliver information and provide protection through security technologies and tamper evidence.

Self-adhesive label products can be supplied to customers on a roll for automated application on packaging lines. They cover a wide range of substrates for applying to different packaging and according to the solutions they must deliver.

Innovative formats include LabelXtra, which incorporates an information leaflet secured to the base label via lamination. This type of solution is growing in popularity, and indications are that this trend will continue – particularly as legislation often demands larger font sizes and more information to be listed.

In some cases, leaflet labels are replacing a classic leaflet, whereby a manufacturer can pack its product without a carton. This format also allows for more colourful designs to be used, as they can be printed on flow paper and applied using standard labelling equipment – normally with very little adjustment – saving costs and minimising environmental impact.

Also fulfilling the need for a greater surface area for patient information are self-adhesive labels, such as 'peel and read' formats. These provide the additional space to carry the details required by law – and when compared with the cost of a carton, leaflet and conventional label, they are competitively priced.

Meeting Every Need

With legislative measures and packaging technology driving change and innovation within the pharma sector, it is possible to find the ideal solution to meet the requirements of just about any customer – and their consumers.


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Martin Dallas, Managing Director, Specialist Technologies at Essentra, studied Organic Chemistry at Birmingham University. In 2006, he joined Amcor – the world’s largest flexible packaging company – as Commercial Director, and spent seven years in sales and marketing roles. Martin joined Essentra in 2012 to lead the consumer transformation that is at the heart of the packaging solutions business strategy. In 2014, he was given the opportunity to lead the newly created Specialist Technologies Business Unit, with responsibility for the creation of a global transformational strategy.
Email: info@essentrapackaging.com
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Martin Dallas
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