Technological watch

How healthcare packaging is "revolutionising" the medical sector

Deepak Prasad, digital marketing executive, Research Nester discusses how healthcare packaging plays a role beyond simply transporting and storing medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.

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2230972179 Pharmaceutical industry. Production line machine conveyor with glass bottles ampoules at factory. Pharmaceutical industry concept background.

It is instrumental, in preserving the quality of healthcare products ensuring safety and even enabling more effective healthcare delivery. 

The significance of healthcare packaging  The healthcare packaging industry has been witnessing growth due to various factors like worldwide health concerns such as an ageing population and the rise of telehealth. As per Research Nesters projections the global healthcare packaging market is expected to reach a revenue of $225 Billion by the end of 2035 with a growth rate of 10% from 2023, to 2035. Additionally, in the year 2022 this market generated a revenue of $125 Billion. 

Product protection: Healthcare products, like medicines, medical equipment and diagnostic instruments can be affected by elements such, as sunlight, humidity and temperature. The right packaging protects these products from deteriorating and guarantees that they remain effective when they are used by patients. 

Patient safety: Contamination and tampering pose challenges, in the healthcare industry. The use of sealed and tamper evident packaging is crucial to prevent unauthorised access and guarantee the delivery of uncontaminated and safe products to patients. 

Dosage management: The way medicines are packaged is really important because it helps make sure that people get the amount of medicine and take it correctly. Packaging, like individual dose packs, blister packs and prefilled syringes make it easier to know how medicine to take, especially for patients who have to take multiple medications. 

Extended shelf life: Advanced packaging materials and innovative technologies have the potential to increase the longevity of products resulting in reduced waste and ensuring that crucial healthcare supplies maintain their effectiveness for longer durations. 

Types of healthcare packaging  Effective healthcare packaging plays a crucial role in minimising medication errors ensuring patient adherence and enhancing the overall quality of care. Moreover, when packaging is user friendly and easily accessible it promotes compliance and reduces the chances of accidental spills or exposure. There are types of healthcare packaging available that serve these purposes; 

Ampoules packaging 

Ampoules packaging refers to a kind of single dose packaging that is widely used in the healthcare industry. It involves a container typically made of glass or plastic which is carefully sealed to ensure sterility and safeguard the contents from any potential external impurities. One of the benefits of ampoules packaging lies in its capacity to deliver accurate dosages making it particularly suitable for medications that demand precise measurements. Ampoules packaging is commonly used for injectable medications and vaccines. 

Vials packaging 

Vials packaging is a type of healthcare packaging that is widely used for storing and transporting medications. Vials typically refer to containers made of either glass or plastic featuring a slender neck and a cap that can be screwed or snapped on. Their sizes and shapes vary depending on the medication they hold. One significant advantage of vials packaging is its ability to provide protection for the enclosed medication. The tight seal created by the cap effectively prevents air and moisture from entering thus avoiding any degradation of the medications quality. Moreover, vials are user friendly can be conveniently stored in various ways, such, as drawers, cabinets or even refrigerators. 

Blister packs packaging 

Blister pack packaging is a type of packaging commonly used in the healthcare industry. It consists of a plastic sheet with separate compartments for each dose of medication. This packaging is preferred because it safeguards the medication from moisture, light and air which can diminish its effectiveness over time. 

One major benefit of blister pack packaging is its ability to help patients easily manage their medication schedule. The individual compartments enable verification of whether a dose has been taken or missed thereby reducing the possibility of medication errors. Blister pack packaging finds usage for medications that require precise dosing like birth control pills and also for over the counter products such, as vitamins and supplements. Additionally, it is frequently employed in hospitals to dispense medications to patients. 

Bottles packaging 

Bottle packaging is a widely used form of healthcare packaging that is designed to store liquids like medications, syrups and solutions. The primary benefit of using bottle packaging is its ability to create an airtight seal, which prevents any contamination and ensures the contents remain intact. Moreover, bottles are easily portable and can be conveniently stored, making them a preferred choice, for healthcare providers. 

Sachet packaging 

Sachet packaging is a type of packaging widely used in the healthcare industry to enclose small quantities of various products like medicines, supplements and creams. It involves sealing a plastic film on all sides to form a compact pouch, perfect for containing a single dose of the item. One significant advantage of sachet packaging is its convenience factor. The small size of these sachets makes them extremely portable, particularly beneficial for individuals who require medication, on the go. Moreover, sachets contribute to waste reduction as they can be tailored to hold the right amount needed for one dose. 

The importance of sustainable medical packaging  Sustainability plays a role in the healthcare industry not only in protecting the products but also in preserving our environment. Medical packaging has an impact on the environment and contributes to about 4.3% of global greenhouse gas emissions generated by the healthcare sector. It is considered as a catalyst for change. Given the increasing awareness of climate change and environmental degradation it is essential for healthcare providers to adopt practices, including using eco-friendly packaging materials. 

The importance of medical packaging becomes even more evident when we consider that the healthcare industry is one of the largest contributors to waste generation. Hospitals alone produce around 29 pounds of waste per bed per day with 25% of that being plastic waste. The sheer amount of waste produced by healthcare facilities is staggering ranging from syringes to plastic pill bottles. By embracing practices, like waste reduction and utilising recyclable materials the healthcare industry can significantly reduce its carbon footprint and contribute to a healthier planet. 

Additionally, the regulatory bodies in the United States and Europe the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Unions medical Device Regulation (MDR) are actively collaborating with leading packaging suppliers across the globe to accomplish significant sustainability goals in packaging, on a global scale in the near future. 

Regulations and standards  Ensuring the safety and effectiveness of healthcare products is crucial which is why organisations like the FDA and ISO have established regulations and standards for healthcare packaging. Adhering to these regulations is essential to avoid consequences such as product recalls, financial penalties and harm to a companys reputation. A notable incident in 2012 serves as an example when a leading pharmaceutical company was compelled to recall millions of units of a product due, to packaging defects that had the potential to cause unintended pregnancies. 

Innovations in healthcare packaging  The healthcare packaging industry is continuously evolving to meet the demands of modern healthcare. Here are some key innovations: 

Smart packaging: Smart packaging solutions utilise technologies such, as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and QR codes to enable real time tracking and authentication. QR codes are designed to interact with smartphones allowing users to scan them and access web pages containing relevant product information. This innovative approach has the potential to enhance health literacy levels among patients. 

Antimicrobial packaging: These are specifically designed to prevent the growth of microorganisms, on the surface of the packaging, which ultimately reduces the chances of contamination and enhances product safety. 

Child-Resistant packaging (CRP): Poison Prevention Packaging (PPP) also known as CRP in the USA is designed to safeguard children against ingestion of medications or dangerous substances. These packages incorporate a mechanism for opening, such, as caps that require pushing and turning. 

Sustainable packaging: Sustainable packaging has become increasingly popular in years as an innovative solution. It focuses on using eco materials to minimise waste and lessen the environmental impact of healthcare products. One notable example is Ecovative Design, a company that has created a packaging material derived from mushrooms. This material is not biodegradable but also compostable effectively reducing waste and contributing to sustainability, within the healthcare industry. 

Personalised packaging: Creating packaging solutions that are customised to meet the requirements of patients like packaging that is easy for the elderly to open or designs that are child friendly play a significant role, in enhancing patient adherence and overall healthcare results. 

Challenges and solutions  One of the issues encountered in healthcare packaging relates to cost. The specialised nature of the materials used often makes them expensive. The production process can also be intricate and time consuming further driving up expenses. Nevertheless, there are ways to overcome this challenge. One approach is to investigate materials that offer cost effectiveness without compromising safety or effectiveness. Another solution involves optimizing the production process to minimize waste and enhance efficiency. 

Another significant concern associated with healthcare packaging is its impact on the environment. The generation of waste by healthcare packaging can have adverse consequences, for our surroundings. To address this issue it is crucial to explore packaging alternatives. These alternatives may include materials, recyclable materials and reducing packaging sizes. By implementing these solutions, we can make healthcare packaging more environmentally friendly contribute towards a healthier planet. 

Conclusion  Healthcare packaging plays a crucial role in modern healthcare system even though it often goes unnoticed. Its importance lies in safeguarding products ensuring patient wellbeing and facilitating healthcare services. With advancements in materials, design and technology we can anticipate enhanced product safety, sustainability and patient focused care. The healthcare packaging industry will have an impact on the ever evolving healthcare landscape leading to improved outcomes, for patients worldwide. 

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Publication date: 13/10/2023

Medical Plastics News


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.