Smart Packaging in Pharma

Smart packaging is a specific type of packaging with technology embedded in the packaging systems to help them do more than just contain the products inside them.

This opens up a world of possibilities that can make smart packaging very beneficial in the pharmaceutical industry. So, let’s explore the different types of smart packaging, how they can be advantageous, and any drawbacks there might be:

Different Types Of Smart Packaging

How Does RFID work?

This type of smart packaging will include RFID sensors that provide a radio frequency that can be wirelessly tracked. They’re commonly used when shipping products as it provides you with an easy way of figuring out where packages have ended up. As such, this can limit the number of lost or undelivered packages because you can trace the item to its exact location.

How do QR Codes work?

QR codes can be added to packaging for recipients to use. They can be scanned via a smartphone, which takes the user to a specific website or shows them something. There’s a lot of potentials here as it means you could theoretically provide instructional videos for medication through a QR code link. People scan the code, see the video, and learn how to correctly take their prescription drugs.

What is NFC?

Near-field communication technology is the technology used in contactless payments. With regards to packaging, you can build NFC chips into the package and wave a smartphone over it to provide content to the recipient. The potential is similar to QR codes, just with more refined technology.

This style of technology is great for brands who would like to improve the experience of the customer by providing videos, or pop up website about the product they are a out to consume.

How Do Microchips/Sensors Work?

You also have smart packaging that uses sensors of microchips as a way of recording data. As an example, when you pop a pill out of the packaging, a built-in sensor will record this data and upload it to a cloud source. From here, physicians can see when tablets were taken and how often they were taken. This presents plenty of benefits as it could potentially reduce overdoses as doctors can see that someone is taking more than the recommended dose.

There are other types of smart packaging, but these are the most common and useful at the moment. Generally speaking, you can split them into two categories:

  • Active packaging: this type of smart packaging will actively improve the product
  • Intelligent packaging: this type of smart packaging gathers information about the product

What Are The Potential Benefits Of Smart Packaging?

As you can imagine, smart packaging takes things to new heights and offers functions that were previously not available. Consequently, this can present a few possible benefits:

How does it Improve Adherence?

There’s something to be said about smart technology improving adherence in the clinical trials environment. Medication adherence is an issue as many patients don’t follow the instructions correctly and don’t take the medication as prescribed. If you had smart packaging with microchips that tracked when a pill is taken, then it can help boost adherence. As mentioned earlier, doctors can see what the patients are doing and advise them on how to improve things and take their medicine correctly.

Similarly, the use of QR codes or NFC technology to provide content to patients is advantageous in this regard as well. By scanning the packaging, patients can see instructional videos on how to take their medication.

How does it Improve Better Tracking?

Naturally, smart technology makes it easier to track packages from A to B. This can prevent a loss of stock and ensures that medication doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Additionally, by using smart packaging, it can help with serialization as well. You can track specific serial numbers through the whole supply chain, so you can crack down on missing shipments.

How does Enhanced Patient/Customer Experience?

The whole idea of smart packaging can provide patients/customers with an overall better experience. They get more out of their products when they can see live instructional videos or keep track of their orders. You can also use a combination of interactive technology here as well. Some smart packaging utilizes apps to help patients monitor their habits and ensure they don’t forget to take their medication at the right time.

What Are The Potential Drawbacks?

There are a couple of slight drawbacks to smart packaging. The main one is data theft. When you start implementing digital technologies and storing data, you run the risk of hackers finding a way to steal everything. Naturally, when we’re dealing with pharmaceuticals, then we’re also dealing with very sensitive data.

The other main issue is malfunctions. Technology always has a tendency to malfunction, so can you really trust smart packaging to work well all the time? What if something goes wrong and a whole batch of products are now shipped in packaging that’s got technical defects and can’t be fixed remotely?

While there are some slight concerns, the general consensus is that smart packaging is the future. It holds more functionality than any other type of packaging, and some evident advantages will benefit both patients/customers and suppliers alike.