Six trends changing drug packaging from the inside out


Six trends are shaping the future of global pharmaceutical packaging, according to research and analysis from researchers at Pharmapack Europe. Their results, summarized below, are contained in “The Golden Age of Innovation Is Beginning: Drug Delivery and Packaging Report 2019.”

The pharmaceutical-packaging trends the researchers identified, based on data and insights from industry experts, are: serialization and track-and-trace, sustainability, patient engagement, smaller production lots, innovations in packaging machinery/automation and combination devices for the delivery of medication. 

1. Serialization and track-and-trace

European Union (EU) regulations mandating pharmaceutical serialization, which took effect in February 2019, together with the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), whose compliance deadlines extend into late 2023, will drive serialization and track-and-trace efforts geared to pharmaceutical traceability and authenticity.


2. Sustainability

Developers of pharmaceutical packaging, like the pharmaceutical industry itself, are placing more emphasis on sustainability. Recyclable and biodegradable packaging materials, lifecycle analyses and carbon-footprint reduction are all expected to play a role. In-store recycling, in which patients return used inhalers and other devices to the pharmacy, is one likely scenario.


3. Patient engagement

Packaging that engages patients by making it easier to manage dosing, drug compliance and the overall treatment experience will become more prevalent. Auto-injectors, prefilled syringes and smart packaging are a few examples. Consumer beta testing will likely emerge to support the development of patient-friendly packages and devices.


4. Smaller production lots

Continued development of biologics and other personalized medicines will drive smaller production lots, which will in turn fuel demand for packaging machinery suited to those lot sizes. As Packaging Digest reported earlier this year, a packaging-machinery supplier and a German university have been working on a pilot program with the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) to automate manufacturing, filling and packaging of personalized cell and gene therapies.


5. Innovations in packaging machinery/automation

The equipment used to package pharmaceuticals is expected to move toward robotics and 3D printing. The latter is well suited to rapid prototyping and to the small production lots cited above. The internet of medical things (IoMT) and smart technologies will increasingly shape pharmaceutical-packaging automation, as well.


6. Combination devices for the delivery of medication

Dual-chamber devices that make it easy for patients to adhere to multi-drug protocols should experience healthy demand going forward. For example, devices that can deliver two injectable medications simultaneously will gain traction as combination therapies continue to proliferate, particularly for the treatment of cancer.

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