Packaging: Is It Important In The Pharmacy Environment?

We work closely with pharmacies across the UK. In the coming months we are working with a series of experts, from Pharmacists through to Superintendents. This month we have worked alongside Ade Williams – Superintendent Pharmacist M J Williams Pharmacy, Bristol. We asked Ade to give his account and professional, expert opinion on the importance of packaging in the pharmacy environment.


Being part of a Pharmacy Team that is known to run some really engaging and effective health campaigns, this year’s, Child Safety Week from Monday 5th to Sunday 11th June 2017, with the theme Safe children: sharing is caring could have been viewed as a missed opportunity.

The Child Accident Prevention Trust was asking friends, families, communities and professionals to show they care by playing their part in keeping children safe and sharing their experience and knowledge – not just about the horrors of accidents, but also the really practical, simple things they do to prevent them.

All pharmacist have a professional and legal obligation to prevent and ensure the safety of the medicines we supply especially with regards to children. This requirement is laid out explicitly in Chapter 2 of The Human Medicines Regulations 2012 specifically Regulation 273 b: ‘‘Regulated medicinal products sold or supplied otherwise than in accordance with regulation 274 may be sold only in containers which are child-resistant.

For the purposes of these Regulations, containers which are reclosable are child resistant if they have been evaluated in accordance with, and comply with the requirements of— (a) British Standard EN ISO 8317:2004 published by the British Standards Institution on 11th May 2005; or (b) any equivalent or higher technical specification for reclosable child-resistant packaging recognised for use in the European Economic Area.

This is thankfully the sort of information I am not expected to have reason to reference in the course of my daily practice however sadly against a backdrop of tragedy comes to the fore when that said reclosable child-resistant packaging which should comply with the aforementioned standards is not present or when it fails, forms part of an incident resulting in harm.

Pharmacy I know has always played a great and proactive part in preventing accidents among children. Our dispensing process, standard operating procedures and the academic knowledge that underpins the dispensing task embeds the child safety message at all levels. We share this message with patients and carers, with a lot of our dispensing packaging reiterating the same.

It is to our credit that thankfully the instances of children being able to access or ingest the contents of medicinal products are uncommon even so we can all recall a story or two usually involving opiate substitution treatment and a child with very sad outcomes.

Such stories produce the reaction of sadness and horror. We share it with our teams, as key learning points to reinforce our practice. I have done in the past also made time to reiterate the message of child safety to our patient groups deemed to be at the greatest risk. We certainly don’t want such to happen to any child, we can’t imagine the impact on the professionals and families involved and we are do everything to make sure it never happens in our practice. This broadly surmises the thoughts and actions we pursue.

As an independent community pharmacist, I know reputation really is everything. Your patients will keep their confidence and trust with you because they believe you have the skills and knowledge they need. They do not expect to understand your processes but expect them to be of the highest professional standards. Complying with all legal requirements.

Packaging plays an important part in our dispensing process. It isn’t meant to be the key selling point but it can certainly enhance and set you apart. In the instance when your compliant child-resistant packaging fails, alongside the patient safety and legal scenario’s, the court of public opinion and brand value is very swift.

In our digital age, we live with the reality of a ‘ viral post’ and the great speed that information is now decimated. Great when its positive and true but consider the impact of it in a context of #unsafepharmacy, #keepaway etc. I hope you get the point I am trying to get across.

A business’s reputation can be irreparably harmed. Packaging, with previously unquestioned dependability, becomes the epicentre of the unfolding crisis. You seek your right to reply in vain. The narrative and conclusions already compiled without your input. It’s not just that one establishment though but the unavoidable collective damage to the sector as a whole.

Some have in the past questioned the value and efficiency of the dispensing and supply model in England. Thankfully, the evidence base supports us but more importantly, the public, who rose up to support the largest health-related petition in England, believe in us too.

Patient safety must never be a point of contention to argue against the future of our great work in our communities.It is possible to use isolated incidents to bring across such points about safety.

In our pharmacy, we have always used the Unopac/Medopac range of packaging. We have confidence in the integrity and quality of the packaging. The assurance of the traceability, confidence in the knowledge that the products are research-based and are fully compliant with all regulations. provides great peace of mind.

Even in this days when the financial squeeze may mean everything is worth considering, you want to trust products and manufacturers that know what you stand to lose if they let you down.We are champions of improving and enhancing the lives of our communities, I want a packaging product that will defend and enhance my reputation. The question is not just how much it’s costing us but what am I putting at risk?

Even greater than our legal, professional or financial considerations are the valuable lives patients implicitly entrust to us. They tell great stories of how we excel at enhancing such lives. Let’s make sure our packaging choices show we will never compromise that trust with lower quality based driven solely by loop sided financial considerations.