Packaging Advice

Pharmaceutical packaging: Its importance, types & sustainable options for 2022

5 mins

For companies dealing with pharmaceutical and medical products daily, packaging is a huge factor in the success of your operation. In fact, the packaging responsible for protecting and transporting these products is just as important as the manufacturing of the treatment or pharmaceutical device itself. Here’s why.

The cost for insufficient pharmaceutical packaging goes beyond the loss of business profits, with consumer wellbeing on the line. This means there is no room for error and extra care must be taken to ensure a packaging solution that spreads confidence.

In this article, we discuss the important roles of pharmaceutical packaging, explore its types in different forms, and touch on the sustainable options available for your business.

The important roles of pharmaceutical packaging

Due to the sensitive nature of drug and health products, their life-saving capacities, and high-target status for criminals, pharmaceuticals need the utmost care and protection through storage and transit.

Consequently, the following roles of pharmaceutical packaging are fundamental for a safe and effective solution:

  • Product containment – High quality pharmaceutical packaging should be strong enough to hold its contents without any problems. It should not transform the product chemically, whilst ensuring it remains physically intact throughout its viability period.
  • Product protection – Packaging materials used should offer protection from various external factors such as, moisture, UV light, and brute force.
  • Product presentation and displayed information – Packaging should contain labels that clearly identify the contents, preventing any mix-ups. Information displayed will help health care workers and patients understand important usage actions.
  • Consumer protection – Effective pharmaceutical packaging design should encourage patients to adhere to their treatment and protect vulnerable consumers from accidental drug ingestion and overdose.
  • Counterfeit prevention – Unfortunately, cargo theft is a big issue which can lead to illegal retail channels and possible counterfeiting. Protective pharmaceutical packaging should include tamper-evident seals to warn handlers and consumers before use.

Types of pharmaceutical packaging

There are several ways to identify the types of packaging used to store and transport pharmaceuticals. This is often done by their level of interaction with the product, by material type, and by packaging design.

Let us explain.

Pharmaceutical packaging types by level of interaction

When referring to ‘levels’ of packaging, this correlates to the layers of protection and their extent of interaction with the product. This is often referred to as primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging.

Primary packaging is the level in direct contact with the pharmaceutical. It offers physical and biological protection to keep the drug chemically sound.

Secondary packaging is the packaging that protects the primary packaging. Its main purpose is brand exposure and often makes displaying and handling of products easier for retailers.

Tertiary packaging is the final level that is there to protect both the primary and secondary layers through storage and transit. This layer can afford to be damaged and should take the structural impacts away from the inner packaging and product.

Pharmaceutical packaging types by material used

You can also filter pharmaceutical packaging types by their material. Some materials are more commonly used than others, and this varies from layer to layer.

For example, glass is commonly used for primary packaging as it’s chemically stable and sterile – great for direct contact with certain drugs. But whilst it offers chemical protection, secondary and tertiary packaging layers would opt for something more impact absorbent like foam or cardboard.

Pharmaceutical packaging types by design

Design is another element of pharmaceutical packaging types. This is where materials are formed into a wide range of different shapes and consistencies to offer ultimate protection in various conditions. Again, as mentioned with materials, different pharmaceutical packaging designs will be used to cater for the individual goals of each packaging layer.

Primary pharmaceutical packaging will include blister packs, ampoules, bottles, sachets, vials, and more. With the choice dependent on the state of matter being packaged, e.g., solid, liquid, or gas.

Secondary packaging is likely to feature cardboard, cartons and vacuum bags. Whereas tertiary packaging is often be made up of large carboard boxes, stretch wrap, and foam inserts for added protection.

All in all, the type of pharmaceutical packaging used should vary from product to product for the optimum solution in each scenario.

Sustainable options for pharmaceutical packaging

The development of sustainable packaging for pharmaceuticals has become increasingly popular over recent years, especially in secondary and tertiary packaging.

Because these layers aren’t in direct contact with the product, stringent chemical requirements aren’t in place, which opens up a huge opportunity for sustainable solutions.

For example, Vegan Thermal Liners can be used to insulate and protect pharmaceuticals in transit they require temperature control. It’s made form 100% recyclable materials and offers a positive CO2 balance, verified by over 1000 climate tests.

But the answer to sustainable pharmaceutical packaging goes beyond recyclable materials. Sustainability is affected throughout the entire supply chain. From manufacturing processes through to delivery, and all the way to disposal.

This means that ensuring delivery trucks are space-efficient is key for a reduction in carbon emissions. As well, advanced machinery can be used to reduce packaging errors, speed up processes, and increase quantities for greater efficiency – all contributing towards a positive environmental impact.

Pharmaceutical packaging from Swiftpak

At Swiftpak, we specialise in supplying the pharmaceutical market with industry-leading packaging solutions. Using over 40 years’ experience, we have the knowledge needed to recommend the very best solution for your product and business.

If you’re in need of an optimised packaging solution for pharmaceuticals, in get in touch with our expert team today. We’d love to let you know how we can take your packaging to the next level.