Packaging Advice

Pharmaceutical packaging: The types and benefits for your business

5 mins

Pharmaceutical packaging plays a number of important roles when shipping sensitive and tightly regulated products. Not only must it protect the contents from physical damage, but should ensure zero alteration is made to the chemical composition.

Which is often achieved through primary, secondary and tertiary packaging.

With a wide range of pharmaceutical products available on the market, both standard and bespoke packaging can be manufactured to meet product demands. From temperature controlled solutions, to tamper evident tape and customs labelling, even the most delicate medicines can be shipped safely.

Here, we explore types of pharmaceutical packaging and the benefits they have for your products.

Primary, secondary and tertiary packaging

When breaking down the types of pharmaceutical packaging available, this can be done through primary, secondary and tertiary packaging. We can then dive into these types further and explore the products used within.

Primary pharmaceutical packaging

Whether it be a drug, medicine, or other formulation, primary pharmaceutical packaging is used in direct contact with the product to protect its chemical composition.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Vials – A glass or plastic container used to contain liquid, solid or a powder dosage form.
  • Ampoules – Similar to vials, ampoules are smaller glass containers (sometimes plastic) used for packaging liquids.
  • Blister packaging – A thermoformed plastic with cavities for tablets or capsules, sealed on the open side with plastic or aluminium foil.
  • Strip package – Formed around the tablet or capsule, each content is protected individually for an increased shelf life. An alternative form of blister packaging.

The type of primary packaging used all depends on the form and chemical composition of your product. Capsules and tablets are often secured in blister and strip packages, while liquids are usually placed in vials or ampoules.

Secondary pharmaceutical packaging

The main purpose of secondary packaging is for brand awareness as well the display and handling of products. As an example, secondary packaging would be the branded boxes used to display products in supermarkets. 

Secondary packaging also plays a vital role in the distribution and protection of pharmaceuticals. Think of it in this way, secondary packaging is used to protect the primary packaging, which is protecting the product. A glass vial wouldn’t last long if packed directly into a shipping case would it?

Secondary packaging is typically found in the form of bespoke cartons. Not only are they easily customisable, helping with brand awareness, but offer good protection and can be recyclable too.

The benefits of secondary packaging

When tackled properly, secondary pharmaceutical packaging can have major benefits on your business, these include:

  • Building your brand
  • Increasing sales
  • Simplifying your shipping process
  • Reducing damaged
Pharmaceutical Solutions

Tertiary pharmaceutical packaging

Tertiary packaging comes into play with the need for transportation. It’s designed to absorb any physical impacts, as well as any moisture and dust problems along the way.

Put simply, tertiary solutions are used to protect both the product and packaging that sits beneath it during transportation. This may include:

The benefits of tertiary packaging

An optimised tertiary packaging solution should look to combine products as tightly and compact as possible, while using minimal materials and without causing strain or damage to products. This helps to:

  • Increase pallet stability
  • Decrease CO2 emissions
  • Lower transport costs
  • Save on material waste
  • Protect the product

Pharmaceutical packaging tips

When it comes to packaging products effectively, there are many hurdles the pharmaceutical and chemical industry have to overcome. There’s sustainability, health and safety requirements, labelling, UK laws and lots more to think about.

For tips on damage, tamper, and contamination prevention, explore our pharmaceutical packaging tips page, or contact the Swiftpak team today.

Pharmaceutical packaging FAQs

What are the common types of pharmaceutical packaging? 

Common types of primary pharmaceutical packaging include bottles, blister packs, sachets, vials, ampoules, and pre-filled syringes. Types of tertiary packaging used for pharmaceuticals commonly include cardboard boxes, shrink film, stretch wrap, and wooden or plastic pallets.

Why is pharmaceutical packaging important?

Pharmaceutical packaging is important because it protects the drugs from contamination, damage, and degradation, and helps to maintain their quality, safety, and efficacy. It also provides important information about the drug, such as dosage instructions, expiry date, and storage conditions.

What are the regulations governing pharmaceutical packaging?

Pharmaceutical packaging is regulated by various national and international agencies, such as the FDA, EMA, and WHO. These agencies set standards for packaging materials, labeling, and quality control to ensure that drugs are safe and effective.

What are some common packaging materials used in pharmaceuticals?

Common packaging materials used in pharmaceuticals include glass, plastic, aluminium foil, and paperboard. The choice of material depends on the drug's characteristics, such as sensitivity to light, moisture, and oxygen.

Looking for pharmaceutical packaging supplies?

To put things bluntly, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to pharmaceutical packaging. There are exceptions to what we’ve mentioned above, and the ‘rules’ are not set in stone - It all boils down to what’s needed to best suit your product and business.

At Swiftpak, we specialise in supplying the pharmaceutical market with industry-leading packaging solutions. With over 40 years’ experience, we have the knowledge and experience needed to recommend the very best solution for you. Why not get in touch with our expert team today and find out how your packaging could be revolutionised.