What is the Packaging of Pharmaceutical Products?

In the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry, packaging plays a very crucial role. It helps to make sure that the prescribed drugs and medication remain uncontaminated and free from any kind of bacterial growth.

Unlike normal consumer goods, the packaging of pharmaceutical goods needs multiple levels of thorough checking to ensure safety. A product that has not been packed safely can be dangerous when consumed by patients or customers.

Pharmaceutical packaging refers to the collection of different materials and components which surround the pharmaceutical product from the production stage until usage by the consumer.

Apart from preserving the integrity of the product, the packaging also has one more very important role to play. The packaging provides a complete medical description of the product contained within. This helps the end-user with identification and consumption.

In general, there are three types of packaging that manufacturers use for pharmaceutical products:

1.   Primary Packaging

This is the most important packaging for a pharmaceutical product is the primary packaging. If not done correctly, it can tamper with the quality and the composition of the product. The material used here is very important, as it must be neutral. It shouldn’t interact with or cause any reaction to the product itself. If it does so, it could cause life-threatening issues to the consumer.

The most common materials used in pharmaceutical packaging are blister strips and pet bottles. These are made from non-reactive substances like PVC and aluminum. High-quality plastic is preferred to glass for liquid products, as they are easier to transport without damage and breakages.

2.   Secondary Packaging

Secondary packaging is the next layer that comes on after the primary. The secondary packaging is, in most cases, made out of printer material like boxes and cartons. As mentioned before, secondary packaging comes with information regarding the product contained inside the two layers.

Active and inactive ingredients, manufacturer’s address, type of medicine, and warning precautions. These are just some of the types of information that is printed on the secondary packaging layer. This helps consumers distinguish between similar-looking boxes of medicine. The secondary packaging also allows the manufacturer to promote its brand image using the printed layer.

3.   Tertiary Packaging

The last layer of packaging that goes on a pharmaceutical product is the tertiary packaging. This layer is the most important for packaging, shipping, and transporting. Consumers usually do not get to see this tertiary packaging. They are taken off before the products are put on shelves for sale.

The main purpose that tertiary packaging serves is protection. It is meant to keep the primary and secondary packages safe along with the product. During shipping and transportation, damages are possible. The tertiary packaging helps to reduce the risk of damage to the product while it is being moved from one location to the other.


As you can see, there are many stages of packaging that a pharmaceutical product goes through. Medicines and other pharmaceutical products are very fragile and cannot be tampered with or damaged in any way. People consume them for the betterment of their health. So the product that they consume must be intact, damage-free, and the way that the manufacturer meant it to be. Otherwise, it could be very dangerous for customers. Improper pharmaceutical packaging could have dire consequences on the health of the consumer.

The global pharmaceutical packaging industry was valued at around $73.49 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow $118.01 in the next five years.


Innovation in the pharmaceutical packaging industry

Seeing as how this is such an important arm of the pharmaceutical industry, you can imagine that there are many minds working on it constantly. There are innovations being created every day when it comes to pharmaceutical packaging.

Pharmaceutical products need reliable and quick packaging solutions. They need to be tamper-proof, high quality and serve the comfort needs of the consumers as well.

With the inflow of new kinds of medication and new forms of consumption by consumers, there is a need for individual, customized packaging of medication. This ensures that the end product that reaches the customer is of the highest quality.

Some of the latest innovations in the pharmaceutical packaging industry are:

  • Blow Fill Seal (BSF) vials
  • Two-in-one prefilled vial design
  • Snap off ampoules
  • Plasma Impulse Chemical Vapor Depositing (PICVD) coating technology
  • Unit dose vials
  • Prefilled syringes
  • Anti-counterfeit measures
  • Child-resistant packaging


Issues facing the pharmaceutical packaging industry

The distribution of products has now become more globalized than ever before. One of the most discussed topics in the pharmaceutical packaging industry is the mass customization of packaging. This will allow them to be distributed as they are in multiple markets without breaking any rules. Changing packages for each market with its own set of rules is time-consuming and a lot more expensive.

Another big issue is the environment. Packaging has to become safe and sustainable. With the amount of non-recyclable waste increasing each and every year, the pharmaceutical industry has a huge responsibility on its shoulders. It cannot contribute to the build-up of this waste.


In Summary

Pharmaceutical packaging is still an emerging science. There is still a lot of room for research, development, and improvement. The pharmaceutical packaging industry is directly or indirectly involved in the manufacturing of drugs. This means that there is a very urgent need to incorporate efficient, scientific methods into the packaging.

Even within one drug manufacturing company, there are multiple kinds of packaging being done so as to suit the needs of the different kinds of the product being made. There is a lot of time and effort that goes into deciding what kind of material to use for which medicine.

This is an industry that is still learning on the job. With the mass production and transportation of pharmaceutical products on the continuous rise, there will be a lot more research and innovation to be done in the field.

This is a basic overview of what the pharmaceutical packaging industry looks like and what the challenges facing it looks like. Keeping track of innovations within the industry will be of paramount importance to drug manufacturers as time goes by.


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