Primary Packaging in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Primary packaging is a key facet of the process of launching a product into the pharmaceutical market and with sustainability a key driver for many of the large pharmaceutical companies across the globe, Origin is one of the  main packaging companies to look into the future of primary packaging and making it more sustainable.

The future of sustainable, high quality packaging is reliant on an in-depth assessment and delivery of process within all areas of an organisation’s supply chain. It is a topic that brings inevitable discussions around techniques and strategies in improving the sustainability of primary packaging. Large pharma companies who use partners that are utilising sustainable strategies at all stages of the packaging lifecycle can satisfy regulators and the demands of associations to be compliant and sustainable.

There are still many challenges within pharmaceutical packaging production; however with the growing knowledge base which is encouraging innovations this will continue to formulate solutions for efficient packaging and a cleaner environment. The combination of speciality primary packaging companies and in-house primary packaging engineers will play an integral role in the future of primary packaging.

When developing sustainable packaging, elements to be considered include:
– Technical performance
– Cost (tangible and intangible)
– Aesthetic Appearance
– User Experience
– Regulatory Compliance
– Optimised Resources
– Sustainability (Responsible Sourcing)
– Material Compatibility
– Resource Recovery

There are many topical issues to take into consideration, which can become a complexed journey in designing sustainable primary packaging. When looking at your initial design, it is key that the packaging is not ‘over-engineered’ but should also be designed to appease probable outcomes, not worst case.

Light weighting is always a ‘need’ from pharmaceutical companies but it is a testing asset due to the design of the packaging having to be compliant. The cost of the packaging has to be aligned with the market, with materials and energy utilised to produce the packaging is efficient and reduces carbon footprint.

The design of any piece of primary packaging has to be compliant and meets the applicable regulations set. In addition, your design is ‘timeless’ as there will be potential regulatory changes. When sourcing materials, it is imperative that a design has the environment in mind and if possible utilising available PCR materials, minimising the virgin material content and, of course, ensuring renewable and sustainable managed sources are used.

Sustainable packaging considers also the transportation across the globe, known as the carbon footprint, and ensures that (if large volumes are produced) the primary packaging piece can be bulk packed, to optimise the transport space.

Recently GlaxoSmithKline posed the question: How can you fit six tablets into the same space as four – and why would you want to?

It may seem like a trivial question, however with GSK team posing a question such as this, the reduction in CO2 emissions was 155 tonnes. In essence the GSK packaging team increased the amount of tablets within each foil blister strip from four to six – this simple move reduced foil consumption by 30% and the overall packet by 25%. This had a positive impact on costings and efficiencies.

A simple question answered, with great results.

Source: GSK

The future of sustainable primary packaging will become an even more prominent subject matter, as the global population becomes even more engaged with sustainability of their product and supporting packaging. The global packaging market is projected to hit over 78 billion GBP in 2017 and by analysing past and future it is relying on efforts of the innovative packaging teams around the world.

What we do know is that pharmaceutical research and development in new drugs will continue to driver forward, Origin predict that primary packaging to transport and administer those ground breaking drugs, will also maintain pace in innovation and development, with new discoveries in material sciences. Step changes in sustainability will only begin to gain momentum when ideas are shared, not only within the pharmaceutical market but encouraging knowledge transfer with other markets too.