Packaging, often the final stage of the production process, determines the fate of the product in the consumer market. Apart from influencing the success or failure of a product in the marketplace and in turn, the revenues of the manufacturer, packaging also serves as an important marketing tool that is quite effective in promoting a product. The basic function of a good pack is to protect the content, avoid spillage/loss, and also make it easier to transport and distribute the product to the end-user/consumer.
The main role of packaging in medicine or pharma industry is no different; however the packaging process and material are extremely important as the contents/products packed and distributed are drugs and medications that directly affect human health and well-being.
The material chosen to pack medicines/drugs depends on several factors including but not limited to:
- The form of the medicine (solid, liquid, gel, gas, paste, etc.,)
- The chemical composition and nature
- Sensitivity to light, moisture, heat, cold and other environmental conditions
- Availability over the counter or for use by health care professionals at the hospitals
- Storage requirements
- How it is administered
It is important to use the right packing material that best fits the physical and chemical properties of the pharmaceutical products to ensure that they serve the intended purpose. The packaging material used in the Pharmaceutical Industry typically:
- is safe
- does not react with the drug or medicine it contains
- is resistant to external conditions such as light and temperature
- is air-tight and water-resistant
- is not absorbent or permeable
- is sturdy and resilient to pressure, vibrations, shocks and other types of impact
Drugs from common aspirin to life-saving formulations contain chemical or organic ingredients, which are usually sensitive to an array of natural elements. Exposure to air, light, heat, moisture or a simple breach of the pack is bound to lead to contamination or cause a chemical reaction that can change the properties /dosage of the medicine.
Administering /using contaminated medicines can result in severe health consequences.
A leak in the packaging, leaching or a small hole or tear may also alter the dosage of medicine in the pack, depending on how long the pack has been damaged.
Type of Packaging
The quality of the end product used by the patient or the health care professional at the clinic or hospital depends on how well the medicine or drug is packed. Apart from the material used for packing, the right type of packaging ensures that the quality of medicines and their effectiveness is well-preserved throughout their shelf-lives.
Tablets are usually packed in clear blister packs sealed with metal foils or plain paper strips based on their ingredients and properties. Liquid formulations are bottled in glass or plastic bottles and sealed with the right caps.
Glass bottles are more resistant to corrosion, chemically inert, resilient to temperature, pressure changes and can be sealed effectively however they tend to be slippery and cannot withstand mechanical impacts.
Different types of safe plastic vials/bottles are equally good for storing medicines and syrups however they are not resistant to temperature or pressure changes.
Containers of steel or aluminum too are used for packing pharmaceutical products.
Packaging material and type of package chosen must also support clear labeling. Packaging in the Pharmaceutical Industry is never independent of labeling as important information regarding the contents of the package, chemical composition, shelf-life, batch number, and dosage, instructions for administration and storage, as well as precautions if any must figure prominently on the pack that reaches the consumer.
While the quality and composition of pharmaceutical content/formulation within the package is critical labeling on the package is equally important or rather more important as these drugs are used/administered based on the information printed on the labels.
The production of drugs and medicines has been largely automated. Accurate and correct labeling proves a lifesaver for it helps track, recall or destroy contaminated or expired products based on the production lots/batches.
Market Share and Revenues
Packaging plays a key role in influencing consumers to buy and use branded products that are known for their high standards and quality. Pharmaceutical products too are no exception. It is also important to note that the cost of the drug /medicine also includes the effort taken to ensure the quality of the product and the packaging as well as in select cases additional processes may be required to maintain the right conditions within the pack. Sterilization, compression, vacuuming or air-tight sealing may be required to pack certain pharmaceutical products to maintain their stability and effectiveness.
How well medicines and drugs are packed, the quality of product and packaging materials, relevant labels and ease of use/administration do influence the popularity and acceptance of the products. Consumers often may not find the price as a deterrent if the drug or medicine is packed and delivered according to prevalent standards. The packaging must be synonymous with quality and justify the pricing.
Packaging could prove to be a competitive edge, especially in the case of over-the-counter (OTC) medications that consumers can pick up from the nearest pharmacy. With no prescription being necessary the choice is primarily driven by recommendations, information/instructions on the labels and the appeal of the package. The appeal of package matters more especially when the medication /product is packed in bottles or containers as they offer better scope for using packaging as a marketing tool as well.
Impressive and quality packaging in Medicine / Pharma Industry is immensely important as it
- directly affects the health of the end-users
- maintains the quality, stability, structural and compositional integrity of the product
- serves to ensure that only the best of medications reach the end-users
- promotes the sales of OTC medications and drugs as well as sensitive formulations that find use in critical care across all hospitals and health care centers
- boosts the brand image of the manufacturing company and its revenues