Pharmaceutical packaging must comply with strict regulatory standards in many respects, including safety, legal compliance and durability. This article looks at each of them in detail.
First and foremost, it must preserve the product to ensure its properties remain intact, since the main purpose is to improve our health.
Pharmaceutical packaging must also protect the contents from physical damage and must be tamper-evident but easy to open (or child-resistant). It must also fulfil sustainability criteria.
CERTIFICATION AND STANDARDS FOR PHARMACEUTICAL PACKAGING
Pharmaceutical products manufactured in laboratories must adhere to different regulations, both national and at the European level, to offer a complete product guarantee.
At the European level, Directive 2011/62/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 8 June 2011, regulates the packaging of medicinal products for human use.
TYPES OF PHARMACEUTICAL PACKAGING
There are different types of pharmaceutical packaging depending on the intended use. SPG mainly focuses on secondary pharmaceutical packaging, which is what contains the medicine.
This packaging is usually unit dose due to the many advantages this offers, including less waste and convenience for consumers, who know exactly how much they need to take.
Other types include outer packaging (which contains the inner packaging), combination packaging (which contains several units) and transport packaging (designed to carry several units or combination packages).
REQUIREMENTS FOR PHARMACEUTICAL PACKAGING
There are many requirements that apply to pharmaceutical packaging, but we will just look at the five main ones, which apply to any product in this industry.
DURABILITY OF PHARMACEUTICAL PACKAGING
Like in other sectors, pharmaceutical packaging must be durable.
Logistics, transportation and handling play an important role in this industry.
As well as being easy to transport and handle, the packaging must be tough enough to withstand external shocks to prevent damage to the product and keep the product’s properties intact.
PHARMACEUTICAL PACKAGING AND TEMPERATURE
One special requirement that is specific to pharmaceutical packaging is that the product needs to kept at the right temperature.
Many medicines undergo heating and cooling processes, with low temperature storage being key.
The packaging must be able to act as protective shield for pharmaceutical products and help maintain this consistent temperature range.
PACKAGING AND THE RIGHT TYPE OF PLASTIC
When choosing materials for pharmaceutical packaging, plastic in its different forms is always a safe bet, although the right type must be used to meet specific requirements in each case.
Some of the best types of plastic for pharmaceutical packaging are:
- Expanded polystyrene (EPS). This has excellent insulating properties, acts as a protective shield for the product inside during transit and is lightweight, which significantly reduces transportation costs.
- Expanded polypropylene (EPP). This is strong, shock-absorbent and lightweight. In other words, it has the same properties as polystyrene but with the added benefit that it can be recycled.
- Polyethylene (PE). This is used in the health sector to make packaging for gauzes and sterile products.
The plastics used in pharmaceutical packaging must preserve the medicine’s efficacy. Each type of plastic will do this more or less efficiently, depending on the product in question.
Chemical compatibility of the packaging with the product is crucial, as are other criteria, like insulation.
Expanded polystyrene is the most recommended plastic for transporting vaccines or thermolabile drugs because of its excellent insulating properties, in addition to being shock-absorbent, lightweight, inert and even sustainable.
TAMPER-PROOF AND USER-FRIENDLY
Pharmaceutical products require packaging that protects and preserves the contents.
Tamper-proof features are a must to ensure that no one has already opened or handled the contents, guaranteeing complete safety for the patient.
The type of patient must also be considered. Some pharmaceutical products are made for older people or people with limited hand mobility, who find it hard to open standard packaging. These patients must be given personalised and more accessible solutions.
ACTIVE PHARMACEUTICAL PACKAGING
Another type of pharmaceutical packaging is active packaging. This means that it interacts with the contents or the environment inside the packaging to fully preserve the product or even extend its shelf life.
Active packaging is essential for certain pharmaceutical products, especially to control oxygen or water vapour levels until they reach the consumer.
Some examples include absorbers, which are designed to eliminate moisture or odours (especially for fresh products); emitters, which release substances to protect the product (e.g. antioxidants); and temperature control, self-cooling or self-heating systems.
SUSTAINABILITY, AN EXTRA REQUIREMENT
There is of course an extra factor, which is being promoted in more and more sectors, and that is sustainability.
This means that apart from meeting all of the above requirements to protect and preserve the product, pharmaceutical packaging must also be environmentally friendly.
In our company we have adapted our production process to sustainable packaging, ensuring the application of the three Rs of sustainability: reduce, reuse and recycle.
All of our pharmaceutical packaging options fulfil ecodesign requirements and we use recycled plastic and biodegradable materials as far as possible, as part of our goal to keep our carbon footprint to a minimum.
Every sector has its own specific packaging requirements. If you are interested in custom solutions for your company, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will help you to find the right packaging for you.