Packaging Advice

Pharmaceutical packaging: The difference between primary, secondary & tertiary

3 mins

When looking to store and transport pharmaceutical products safely, you first need to think about what packaging is required in order to deliver a successful solution. This depends on what product you’re dealing with.

For example, some medical products require primary, secondary and tertiary packaging to ensure zero alteration in the chemical composition of the dosage, as well as protection during storage and transport. Whereas other pharmaceutical products may only need primary packaging.

Below we’ve explained the difference between primary, secondary and tertiary packaging, as well as given examples to help guide you towards an efficient packaging solution for your business.

What is primary packaging?

Primary packaging is the packaging that’s in direct contact with the product and is often referred to as retail packaging or POS (Point-of-Sale) Packaging. The main purpose of primary packaging is to preserve the product as well as inform the consumer.

What is secondary packaging?

Unsurprisingly, secondary packaging is the packaging that packages the primary packaging (that’s a lot of packaging). The main purpose of secondary packaging is for brand exposure and often makes displaying and handling of products easier for retailers.

What is tertiary packaging?

What about transport? This is where tertiary packaging comes in. Any business that ships goods uses tertiary packaging in the distribution process. In short, tertiary packaging is there to protect both the product and the packaging that sits underneath when being transported from one destination to another.

Pharmaceutical packaging

Packaging for pharmaceuticals

In the pharmaceutical industry, primary packaging is often used to preserve and contain medicines to avoid contamination, as well as provide critical information for the consumer. An example of primary packaging could be blister packs which are used to contain the correct dosage of pills.

For secondary packaging, you’d often see the paperboard boxes used to display the packets on the pharmacy isle. And when it comes to tertiary packaging, as a consumer, this wouldn’t be noticed. However, it’s super important for a successful process.

Of course, there are exceptions to what we’ve mentioned above, these ‘rules’ are not set in stone and vary from product to product.

What do we mean by this you ask? Well, there’s much more to the pharmaceutical industry than just medicines.

When it comes to the packaging of medical equipment, especially in the B2B market, the focus slightly changes. Where medicines don’t usually need personalised protection, medical equipment/instruments do, and that’s the number one priority. However, this isn’t always the case. Medical equipment is also sold to end-consumers, meaning tertiary packaging is often essential. In short, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to pharmaceutical packaging.

So, if you need help packaging your medical equipment or medicines efficiently, speak to an expert at Swiftpak today.

Speak to an expert

For a deeper insight into pharmaceutical packaging and to discover packaging products we use to prevent damages of pharmaceutical products, visit our packaging tips for the pharmaceutical and chemical industry blog.

Alternatively, if you have any questions or are looking for a packaging solution to successfully protect your product, contact Swiftpak today, we’d be happy to help.