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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Packaging for People

Developments in Europe since the first EU legislation in 1992 have led to a substantial standardisation of medicinal packaging. The law demands a combination of outer packaging, an inner container and a leaflet, and most drugs across Europe are now packed in a very similar way. This, of course, has major benefits for the pharmaceutical trade and for regulatory controls as it is relatively easy to compare prices and check legal compliance.

However, the perspective of the actual user is rarely considered. One reason might be that this point of view is more difficult to quantify and control. There are different ways in which drugs can be obtained (with or without a prescription) and numerous situations in which they are used (home, hospital, emergency). They are handled by several different people (healthcare professionals, carers, patients), all of whom differ in age, experience, language and reading abilities. Until now, this variety has been almost completely ignored in the packaging designs – there is only a ‘one-size-fits-all’ standard.

A second reason that the user perspective has not attracted much attention might be that production developments and continuous modifications to the regulations about packaging and leaflets has demanded most of the time and effort. There is rarely any time to consider what the consequences of legal compliance are on the people who handle medicines in care situations.

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Dr Karel van der Waarde is a researcher and consultant for Graphic Design- Research, a company that writes, designs and tests packaging, package inserts and visual information about medicines. The focus is on a direct cooperation with people to develop digital formats and tangible instructions on labels, packaging and inserts. He holds a PhD from Reading University, UK, and has worked in the pharmaceutical industry ever since.
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Dr Karel van der Waarde
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