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Trends in Pharmaceutical Packaging

Trends in Pharmaceutical Packaging

Trends in Pharmaceutical Packaging


The pharmaceutical industry is constantly evolving. New threats pave the way for innovations to protect human health and preserve their quality of life. With the constant innovations and the introduction of new drug formulas to meet modern requirements, the pharmaceutical labeling and packaging industry must also evolve to accommodate emerging demands.

As the pharmaceutical industry looks toward a new year, the packaging industry has to constantly be aware of trends shaping the industry to deliver packaging solutions that meet the demands of both the manufacturer and the end consumer.

This blog discusses emerging trends in pharmaceutical packaging and the issues that drive them to help packaging companies prepare for them in the coming year.

Increased Cases Accelerating Adoption of Security Features Against Counterfeiting

Counterfeiting in pharmaceuticals remains a problem worldwide, posing a significant risk to health and safety while fueling brand distrust, which undermines potential sales. Although counterfeit medicines only constitute as little as one percent of the trade in developed countries, it still poses a significant problem. 


According to Europol, the counterfeit problem continues to pose “a substantial threat to the EU and affect most, if not all, member states.” Citing customs data, the law enforcement agency reveals that counterfeit medicines were the seventh most commonly seized product in 2020, with more than a 200 percent increase in cases from 2019 when it ranked tenth on the list. 

But in certain African, Asian, and Latin American countries, counterfeit medicines flood the market and can make up as high as 30 percent of trade. Since efforts to remove knockoff merchandise can be costly, pharmaceutical packaging suppliers are now adopting anti-counterfeiting components in labeling and packaging to combat fraud.

Today, pharmaceutical brands are adopting one or a combination of the following overt and covert solutions as a way of counteracting counterfeiters:


  • Color-shifting ink
  • Pearlescent ink
  • Tamper-evident closures and labels
  • Holographic seals and labels
  • Specialized QR codes
  • Ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) light-reactive ink
  • Thermochromic ink
  • Hidden indicia
  • Digital watermarks
  • Taggants


Responding to the Stronger Call For Sustainable Pharmaceutical Packaging

The call for sustainability in packaging materials is stronger than ever, with three key issues accelerating the need for adoption. These are:

  1. Increased Regulatory PressureIn recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in regulations and policymaking aimed at pushing for sustainability in packaging across a wide range of industries and business sectors. Under these new regulations, proposed Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) taxes and penalties can impact companies financially if their packaging does not meet sustainability standards. These regulations will likely target pharmaceutical companies as they increase in scope, placing more pressure on businesses to comply.
  2. Greater Consumer AwarenessConsumers today are more socially-conscious and want to play a more active role in saving the environment. Customer sentiment is being aroused by visceral online images of packaging materials leaking into oceans and harming marine wildlife. In effect, pressure to reduce packaging waste for various consumer products, including pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, has increased dramatically.
  3. Wider Environmental ConcernsPackaging materials for most pharmaceuticals and OTC medicines are more likely to end up in household waste and, ultimately, landfills. Therefore, from a sustainability standpoint, changes must be made for smarter processing of pharmaceuticals packaging to reduce its overall environmental impact. This is why there is a growing demand for sustainable packaging solutions that preserve pharmaceuticals’ quality and safety.


COVID-19 Shortages Fueling the Search For Glass Alternatives


As the world faced the threat of COVID-19, pharmaceutical companies focused all their resources on developing, testing, and manufacturing vaccines for the entire world – and they succeeded. At record-breaking speeds, vaccine manufacturers were able to mass-produce vaccines with the goal of worldwide distribution. 

However, the speed of vaccine development also revealed a significant bottleneck: the global supply of pharmaceutical-grade glass for the production of vials. Aside from the current shortage, the sheer volume of vials needed would have taken years to produce, especially since the entire industry sits with just a handful of pharmaceutical packaging suppliers. 

Essentially, the world is at the mercy of just a few companies and their commitment to producing the containers needed. This means that to accelerate the end of the pandemic, the world will have to look for glass alternatives and create vials from other materials that are just as effective, if not more so, than glass at protecting the efficacy and quality of drugs.


Calling For Pharmaceuticals Packaging Innovations to Prevent Adverse Reactions


In 2021, pharmaceutical company Fresenius Kabi USA issued a voluntary recall for a single lot of their non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), Ketorolac Tromethamine Injection. 


The recall was issued over the presence of particulate matter in their vials, which posed a significant risk to patients. When administered, the particulate matter would obstruct blood vessels and result in local irritation of blood vessels, swelling in the injection site, and cause blood clots, which could be life-threatening. 


This was only one of many pharmaceutical recalls issued throughout 2020 and early 2021 due to cases of contamination. Despite all the efforts placed by health professionals to provide medication that facilitates healing, all of this would be for naught if the product packaging is responsible for creating safety risks. In this sense, new materials and innovative solutions are required to prevent adverse reactions, eliminate safety risks, and ensure public health and safety.

Your Partner in Efficient Packaging Solutions

The pharmaceutical industry is constantly evolving. With the continuous introduction of new medicines to combat new threats and numerous innovations, pharmaceutical packaging suppliers must adapt to meet the constant demand for high-quality packaging materials that satisfy modern requirements.


At Hughes Enterprises, we draw from our 60 years of experience in the packaging industry to deliver tailored solutions for the pharmaceutical industry to address your most pressing needs. As an industry innovator, we stay on top of the latest trends to comply with current regulations as well as give you a competitive edge. Gain a reliable extension of your operations team by partnering with Hughes. Contact us today and get in touch with our experts from the pharmaceutical industry