08 April 2021
Ameer Khan By Ameer Khan

Pharma Packaging: Smarter, Safer & Going Digital.

Pharma packaging is embracing digital health to become smarter and safer.

Before we dive into all this cool technology, I want to give you a heads up that I’ll be using the term ‘pharma packaging’ very loosely throughout. So, you might recognise some of the innovations in this article as medical devices or drug delivery systems – just go with it.

Anyway, they’re all exciting advances that show how digital health is continuing to improve pharma consumers’ lives.

First up, smart labels.

Connected packaging has been widely implemented in the fast-moving consumer goods and food & beverage industries through initiatives like SmartLabel. However, the pharma industry has begun to catch-up.

For example, Nolato, a manufacturer in polymer materials, has teamed-up with Water.io to provide smart digital caps that remind patients about their prescriptions. These caps monitor the adherence of a patient and send reminders via an app based on individual prescriptions.

That’s not all. Once a user’s prescriptions levels are low, the packaging also activates automatic replenishment for product subscriptions, improving communication between the user and brand owner.

QR codes and augmented reality are also being used on pack codes to allow patients to access product information or visit product websites. This is improving safety and helping brands build trust amongst their consumers.

India has been aiming to use QR codes on all pharmaceutical packaging ordered under the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP). The government aims to push for fair pricing and reduce fake product imitation around the country. In Russia, the Law on Amendments to the Law on Circulation of Medicines was signed to eliminate the illegal trafficking of medicines. The law stated that all packaging for medicines must be labelled with QR codes.

The use of technology integrated within packaging is also helping to prevent illegal sales of expired medicines and any fatalities arising from their consumption.

‘Self Expiring’ is a packaging material for medicinal products that visually 'self expires' over a certain amount of time. The packaging eventually displays a 'not fit for consumption' message using universally accepted danger signs in regional languages, allowing for a much safer user experience.

Moving on, drug delivery devices are also improving safety for consumers.

For example, Aptar Pharma has developed a wide range of drug delivery solutions for a variety of therapeutic areas and delivery routes including injectables, nasal, dermal, eye care and pulmonary.

The company’s digital device technologies feature useful benefits such as dose reminders and remaining dosage displays, as well as featuring built-in alarms for extra safety for self-administration medicines. Integrating the use of mobile phones, the devices offer Bluetooth connectivity, offering access to training and feedback modules, patient apps, caregiver apps and secured compliant data platforms.

This is an area that Nemera is also advancing for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and generic industries. 

Nemera’s digital technology, such as the ‘e-Novelia’ for eyedrop applications, features electronic technology that enhances patient experiences. The devices feature tilt sensors and LED indication for device positioning, remaining drug indicators, drop detection and the ability the recharge the device. With the use of mobile technology, users can be sent notification reminders, view instructional videos and receive electronic guidance for application.

Finally, many companies have embraced digital health for track and trace.

There’s increasingly strict requirements for track and trace serialisation compliance, so each package can be identified and monitored throughout the whole process from manufacturer to patient.

Illicit drug supply to the global economy is estimated to exceed $200 billion. The use of track and trace serialisation helps against counterfeiting efforts, consumer protection and brand protection. This can be applied from individual pills and bottles, right through to whole pallets of products. 

A US-based company, TruTag Technologies, has developed edible microtags made with silicon dioxide or silica, placed on individual pills encoded with the unique product information. Such innovations mean companies and individuals can scan a pill and ensure the authenticity, place and date of manufacture, lot numbers and more.

By enabling drug digitalisation, these solutions provide benefits to safeguard drug quality and safety, improve patients’ engagement and improve medication adherence.

Integrating the use of digital technology within the healthcare sectors is set to offer countless benefits across the board for patients, healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies.

The innovations I’ve highlighted in this article show the positive impact technology can have on a space. There’s a clear objective by many to increase the safety of pharmaceutical drugs for individual users, as well as providing positive logistical support for manufacturers.

With technological advancements constantly on the rise, I’m certain areas such as the pharmaceutical space will see more and more companies will embrace these innovations – which is really exciting.

If you have something to say on this topic or would like to share your experiences working in pharmaceutical packaging, please get in touch and email Ameer.Khan@lifesci-cm.com. I’d be really interested in what you have to say.

You can find more content like this on my profile page here.

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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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