30 June 2021
Ameer Khan By Ameer Khan

Embracing Innovation for Sustainable Pharma Packaging & Drug Delivery.

The world’s population is ageing and rising, which continues to present huge challenges for all areas of healthcare.

In pharma packaging and drug delivery, everyone is beginning to talk about sustainability again. How can we meet this increasing demand without creating more plastic waste, or causing further harm to our environment?

To give you an idea of the issue, there are 12 million people aged 65 and older in the UK alone. On average, each of them takes five pills per day. If each packet has eight tablets, then roughly 2.7 billion non-biodegradable blister pill packages are thrown into land fill by our UK pensioners every year.

Now think about this on global scale… it’s a pretty daunting prospect, right?

But it’s time for change in pharma packaging and drug delivery. Our focus – which continues to be preoccupied by the COVID-19 response – is shifting back toward sustainability. This was a major topic for leaders 2019 and is set to return to the forefront in the post-pandemic world.

Innovation Saving the Day

There are many ways life science manufacturers and suppliers can cut down on their environmental impact, including materials selection, reusable transport packaging, reducing water and energy consumption, cutting carbon emissions and more.

A lot of the innovation on the product side of business has focused on materials. For example, Amcor, has replaced PVC from its tablet and capsule blister pack, AmSky, with a PE thermoform blister and lidding film. This is claimed to be the world’s first recyclable PE-based thermoform tablet and capsule blister pack.

Amcor’s new, sustainable blister pack provides a 70% reduction in carbon footprint when compared with packaging alternatives on the market today (based on an analysis by the company’s own ASSET lifecycle assessment tool, certified by the Carbon Trust). When AmSky becomes commercially available in 2022, the implications on our industry’s carbon footprint could be huge.

Global packaging manufacturer, Constantia Flexibles, is also championing products made from sustainable materials. Its first recyclable polymeric mono-material, Perpetua, is a more sustainable high-barrier packaging option for pharmaceutical products.

Perpetua has a wide range of uses in pharma packaging applications, offering important active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) protection from oxygen, water vapor and light to provide the patient with effective medication.

The new recyclable product family is based on a unique line of full PP (polypropylene) high barrier laminates and is available in application-tailored versions. It has been certified by The Institute cyclos-HTP, a German initiative that has designed a catalogue for requirements and for assessing and certifying the recyclability of packaging and goods.

German packaging manufacturer, Gerresheimer, has also made a commitment to become more sustainable with the company’s product families now adhering to its EcoLine criteria.

These standards determine the development and production of Gerresheimer’s well-known plastic container series for solid and liquid medications, including Duma, Triveni and the dropper bottles - as well as the PET bottles.

The Gerresheimer EcoLine concept includes the criteria of weight, volume, material and recyclability. The lower tare weight saves transport and energy costs and consequently reduces CO₂ emissions. Minimising the void space in a container influences the material consumption, transport and storage costs for a product. Meanwhile, resource-saving and recycled materials are much more sustainable. For example, with BioPack, Gerresheimer offers a plastic made from sugar cane, a renewable raw material.

In both glass and plastic packaging, Gerresheimer is pursuing ambitious targets in terms of sustainability for development and production. This sustainable criterion can ensure that less energy is consumed and production is more resource efficient.

Moving into the world of drug delivery, Phillips-Medisize, a Molex company, has unveiled the Aria Smart Autoinjector platform to unlock innovation, differentiation and sustainability in the digital drug delivery device market.

This latest advancement introduces a small smart injection device featuring a reusable electronic drive unit and single-use, disposable cassettes to elevate patient care while reducing environmental impact.

This platform is a game-changer, bringing the right functionality to market, in the right form factor, at the right time. Combining the simplicity of current disposable devices, with the superior performance, sustainability and connectivity possible; it’s exciting to see that drug delivery standards don’t need to be comprised in return for sustainability.

More recently, Ypsomed has entered the autoinjector space with the world’s first zero carbon emission prefilled autoinjector. This uses alternative biopolymers and a novel packaging design that follows the principles of circular product design.

YpsoMate Zero is developed to not only reduce the carbon footprint, but also its overall environmental footprint. To do this, the company applied the following principles:

  • Avoid the usage of fossil-based materials.
  • Use biopolymers that should not compete with food.
  • Leverage materials that are based on certified renewable feedstock.
  • Apply a material balance principle.
  • Evaluate waste materials such as recycled plastics where applicable (and available).

Most of the conventional plastics in the YpsoMate Zero have been replaced with more sustainable plastics made from waste such as recycling plastics, biogas, tallol or cellulosic. They all fulfil the regulatory requirements for medical devices yet have not been used for medical or pharma before.

What’s Next?

Despite Ypsomed’s success, meeting stringent regulatory requirements in terms of safety, processability and barrier properties for pharmaceuticals will continue to be a challenge for other companies that aim to bring sustainable products to market. They also face challenges surrounding pharmaceutical compliance too.

Nevertheless, sustainable packaging is here to stay. It’s the future. And that’s not just because of the important environmental factors. There are economical motivations too.

Sustainability is not simply a corporate obligation but a potential growth driver.  More and more consumers are paying attention to environmentally friendly products and packaging. Companies will need to embrace this trend, or face falling behind.

In fact, innovation in sustainability for pharma packaging and drug delivery companies has never been so important. I’m excited to see the different initiatives and products that come to fruition as part of this new, sustainable era for the space.

Do you agree? Is sustainability the key to success in pharma packaging and drug delivery? Or have I missed the point? Either way, I’d love to hear your feedback. Please email me at Ameer.Khan@lifesci-cm.com.

For more of my pharma packaging and drug delivery content, please visit my profile page.

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Ameer Khan

Ameer Khan has been with CM Life Science since 2017. Today he is a Principal Consultant working within the Pharma Services, Packaging and Drug Delivery spaces. Ameer oversees key accounts for the company, while also looking to expand his customer base and build lasting relationships. He has experience recruiting commercial and technical candidate's all over the world and is truly a specialist within his markets.

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