2020 Pharmapack exhibition: what future for the pharmaceutical packaging?

Published on 11 March 2020 Read 25 min

The Pharmapack exhibition was held the 5th and 6th February 2020, gathering more than 400 exhibitors and several speakers inviting us to think about the future of pharmaceutical packaging. To design and develop the packaging of tomorrow requires a real will to innovate while answering to multiple challenges and constraints of the sector: strict regulation, patient adherence, the rise of biologics… This year, the center of the stage has been occupied by the growing and unavoidable challenge of sustainable development while technological progress in terms of connectivity and electronical miniaturization bore great promises. Between announcement effect and market reality, Alcimed takes stock of the situation.

Sustainable development: between promises and concrete applications in pharmaceutical packaging

The sustainability problem has been brought into limelight throughout conferences with a half-day dedicated to this topic. Between concrete action plan presented by the Merck group, the recyclability theme illustrated by Adelphe’s actions and brainwork engaged by HPRC consortium, it is the full value chain that engages into a more virtuous dynamic. A new kind of recyclable blister has even been awarded during the exhibition. Yet, the large majority of packaging is still designed with unrecyclable materials such as PVC and concrete applications of promises made during conferences are conspicuous by their absence at the exhibition!

The only light in this dark landscape that still relies on petrochemicals resources: bioplastic derived from Brazilian sugarcane coproducts. But does this material have adequate barrier properties to protect active ingredients? It is also questionable whether this solution will be able to supply a global market.

Connectivity and patient centricity: how to favor patient adherence thanks to packaging?

50% is the average rate for patient adherence to prescribed medication in the world. A real challenge for the pharmaceutical industry, it mobilizes all actors to develop innovative solutions often connectivity oriented. Smart primary packaging development relies today on always thinner connections that can monitor in real time or the number of ingested pills and build dashboard on dedicated applications for the healthcare professional or the patient himself. Also able to program smartphone reminders or warning lights on the primary packaging itself, several actors today combine behavioral sciences and data analysis to develop even more innovative solutions. Still far from being able to solve the patient adherence challenge, this technological progress still shows promising results.

New horizons in terms of innovation: technology to support the packaging

IoT and electronic devices miniaturization open brand-new doors to the packaging, especially in terms of tracking and fight against counterfeiting:

– There is better product traceability thanks to tiny RFID chips that can be integrated to primary packaging such syringes.

– Smart packaging thanks to new hybrid electronic devices that can be now printed on flexible surfaces like labels or thanks to electronic inks able to react to low electric currents. Associated with sensors, packaging brings new functionalities to the product (real-time temperature monitoring, drug tracking…).

These two days produced a rich harvest of innovations to serve great pharmaceutical challenges spearheaded by digital and connectivity. More patient-centered, many of them promote therapeutic monitoring and adherence to treatment. Nevertheless, and despite a half-day of conferences dedicated to sustainable development, today too few concrete solutions can satisfy the regulatory constraints. This restrictive framework, specific to the pharmaceutical industry, creates inertia that slows progress in pharmaceutical packaging development. Today, it is necessary to develop concrete products, with rapid deployment and with real added value, both for the end customer and for the environment, without necessarily seeking the announcement effect or the “trendy” side of a solution.

About the author

Paul, Consultant, Alcimed Healthcare Paris Office

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