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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Advanced Packaging

Dr Peter Harrop at IDTechEx expounds on innovative packaging solutions for the pharmaceutical industry

Pharmaceutical packaging will increase in sophistication and often in unit price. This is due to the fact that the superior traceability and anti-counterfeiting afforded by RFID will continue to be preferred. The increase will also be driven by the use of electronic laminates to provide other functions such as improved baby-proofing, the electronic recording of which pill was taken when and moving colour displays of information in large fonts. Then there will be the selfadjusting use-by date that is sensitive to time and temperature, improving safety.

FORECASTS

Overall market forecasts are often right but at times the details turn out to be different – forecasts of RFID in healthcare are no exception to this. RFID on regular plastic bottles of pills is no longer being pushed by the authorities, but smart skin patches, where the package is the delivery mechanism to the patient, are moving on fast, as is the tagging of pallets, cases, people and assets in healthcare, including tags that give location – so called real-time location systems (RTLS). It is difficult to say if the many added value features in pharmaceutical packages will offset the ongoing price reduction due to efficiency improvements in manufacture and increased competition. However, many believe that the value of the pharmaceutical packaging business will increase, driven by both larger numbers and added value features.

LABELS SUBSUMED INTO THE PACKAGE

Just as barcodes were originally applied as labels – although 85 per cent are now applied by direct printing on the package – so it will be that the added functions to improve safety, efficacy and the efficiency of the supply chain will increasingly appear as direct printing and laminating, for instance as added value packaging. Let us now look at the interim products that lead us to this end point.

RFID-ENABLED PACKAGES

If we look just at the part that RFID has to play, we can predict that RFID in healthcare is rapidly growing, to become a $2.1 billion global business by 2016. This is partly as a result of the increasing applications of RFID and printed sensors in or on the primary, secondary and tertiary package. At the request of Wal- Mart and others, cases and pallets must now be RFID labelled, primarily to improve stock control, including reduction of stockouts for the benefit of patients. Another aspect is that today’s patient compliance-recording blister packs electronically record when each pill is taken – or more strictly, when it is removed from the pack. Aardex has a version where the contents of a plastic bottle are continuously weighed by a load cell in the base, thus recording when a pill is removed.


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Dr Peter Harrop FIEE, FCIM is Chairman of IDTechEx, which offers consultancy, publications and conferences on RFID, smart packaging and printed electronics. His degrees are in Physics. He was previously Chief Executive of Mars Electronics and has been Chairman of over 15 high-tech companies. He travels widely, speaking at conferences and carrying out consultancy work in RFID, smart packaging and printed electronics. His reports and books have been published by the Financial Times, John Wiley and others. He is the controlling shareholder in IDTechEx, which he founded seven years ago.
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Dr Peter Harrop
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