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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Exceeding Expectations

Niels Düring at Gerresheimer talks to PMPS about his job role, the necessity of working closely with your customers, and the importance of selecting the right packaging for pharmaceutical drugs

Tell us about your role. What is a typical day for you?

Niels Düring: I am responsible for the Primary Plastic Packaging department, and my main focus is on continuing development of our business and our platform globally to meet the demands of customers now and in the future. I am travelling a good part of my time to be close to customers and to the market we operate in, as well as visiting our manufacturing sites around the world to ensure the continuing progress in our activity and use of best practice cross-border. Working with people motivates me.

What initially attracted you to the pharmaceutical packaging sector?

I liked the idea of contributing to health and wellbeing. Our customers in the pharma industry are helping people to recover their health and live for longer than ever before. Pharmaceutical packaging products, such as tablet bottles or squeeze bottles for eye drops and nasal spray, are essential to this. We create packaging to facilitate simple dosage and reliable storage of medications for the people taking them.

How important do you feel the role of suitable packaging is to the pharma industry?

An increasing number of people are self-medicating. Some patients will get their prescription drugs in very simple tablet bottles, like the ones everyone has in their first aid cabinet. But if the prescription drug is a painkiller for someone with arthritis, the container has to be easy to open because people with arthritis tend to have limited movement and strength in their hands. So the bottle and closure have to be designed with this in mind. We have recently developed an improved senior-friendly and child-safe closure. It means that elderly people can easily take their medication without having to ask anyone to open the bottle and, at the same time, they know their small grandchildren are safe.

To take another example, many people suffer from dry eyes, but just as many people find it difficult to administer eye drops. We now offer a device that helps people to optimally position the eye drop bottle above their eye so that the drops actually end up where they should.

Packaging performs many important functions in protecting medicines, but what would you say is a particular focus to pharma manufacturers today?

It is very important to collaborate closely with customers and listen to their needs in the development of packaging. A product of this close collaboration was showcased at CPhI 2015 – the Duma Twist-Off Protect container; a multilayer version of a well-known and proven solid dose pharmaceutical container that protects its content even more effectively against water vapour and oxygen. Over the past five years, we have become experts in the production of multilayer vials after developing a multilayer cyclic olefin polymer (COP) vial for parenteral medications with pH values that rule out glass as a packaging material. In short, this has resulted in a vial that is as transparent as glass but absolutely breakproof, with a highly effective oxygen barrier function. Biopharma parenterals and cytostatics can be safely packaged and stored in these kinds of vials.

Is there anything that you find manufacturers neglect to consider?

Our customers are professionals who know all the ins and outs of their businesses. They do not just appreciate excellent and dependable quality; they also test it very exactingly. That is crucial, because it allows us to make continuous improvements and grow our business. In a few cases, though, I wish they would involve us at an earlier point in the process.

Which part of your job do you most enjoy?

I enjoy working closely with the customers. They motivate my team and me to look at packaging from different angles and to keep optimising them. A tablet bottle does not really look like a high-tech product, but it is – people who know the product specs for a tablet bottle will know what I am talking about. I am glad that our packaging contributes to improving the quality, handling and appearance of pharmaceuticals. We aim to be a partner to our customers and we want our customers to be successful in their markets.

And which part is the most challenging?

We have to stay focused and start developing products for customers before they actually come to us with a specific application. To do this, we monitor developments in the pharma industry very closely and think about what it will need next, and where it will be needed. We have operations in Europe, the Americas and Asia, so we have a good awareness of a wide range of markets.

At all these locations our customers benefit from the entire Gerresheimer Plastic Packaging Division’s expertise. And when that is not enough, we have the entire Gerresheimer Group's knowhow at our fingertips. There are not many other companies able to offer what we do.

What developments are in store for the pharma packaging sector over the next decade?

We have identified six trends:

1. Patents are expiring and generic drugs are on the increase. Generic medicines are sometimes regarded as second-rate, but they are not. They will be one of the main growth drivers on the pharma market over the next few years
2. Healthcare systems in emerging economies are expanding and, according to the experts, revenues from pharmaceutical drugs will increase by around 10% per year in the emerging markets between 2013 and 2018. China is our most important market, followed by India and Brazil
3. More stringent regulatory requirements are required. The FDA is setting the pace with its zerodefect or tolerance quality initiative for pharmaceuticals. Europe is following suit, and many other countries are close behind. I believe this is right; after all, we are talking about human health. So our goal is zero-defect manufacturing
4. New drugs are being developed all the time, which means new packaging requirements. The traditional material of glass is not always suitable for these novel medicines, so we need innovative packaging products made of new materials such as high-performance COP or tempered glass
5. Acute illness and chronic disease are on the rise. Diabetes and asthma are just two examples of diseases requiring ongoing medication. Today, 385 million people suffer from diabetes. In 20 years, this figure could reach 600 million
6. Self-medication is becoming an increasingly important concept. Most people do not want to have to go to their doctor just to get their insulin medication. In addition, health insurance funds support selfmedication because it saves them money.

However, safe and reliable solutions are necessary because a lot can go wrong with this approach. 30-50 % of self-medication drugs are either not taken at all, or taken at the wrong time or in the wrong dose. So intelligent products are necessary.

How would you describe your business philosophy?

Our company has a great philosophy and I fully support it: “Gerresheimer will become the leading global partner for enabling solutions that improve health and well-being. Our success is driven by the passion of our people.” I think that all activities around the globe show how committed we are to achieving this objective. My worldwide team and I are also part of the process. I personally believe that you should never expect more of others than you expect of yourself, and should treat others as you would like to be treated. Integrity, honesty, hard work and willingness to learn are key to success.

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