Flexographic Printing Blog

Pharmaceutical Packaging Design 101: Safety, Sustainability, & More

Posted by Luminite on Mar 3, 2021 8:15:00 AM

pharmaceutical packaging design

The pharma sector is one of the most regulated divisions in the entire healthcare industry. Why wouldn't it be, when even the slightest mistake could wreak unrepairable havoc to the end-users? New pharmaceutical packaging trends lean toward customer safety and sustainability.

Companies must adhere to strict pharmaceutical packaging design  guidelines (like the FDA’s) before getting their designs approved. When it comes down to it, many designers turn to flexographic printing to complete their pharmaceutical packaging needs. But why is that?

What Goes Into Pharmaceutical Packaging Design? 

We could spend pages talking about all that goes into a good pharmaceutical packaging design, but realistically, the must-haves can be broken down into three parts:

  • Readability
  • Safety
  • Sustainability

Designers must employ best practices for their pharmaceutical packaging projects because the end result may mean life or death for a user.


Pharmaceutical packaging bottles should contain as much readable medical information as possible. All drug products should be labeled and bear the following compliance guidelines:

  • Name of the drug 
  • Expiration date (in uncoded format)
  • Active ingredients used
  • Directions for use
  • Manufacturer's batch number
  • Manufacturer’s or supplier's name and address
  • Any special storage conditions or precautions

If you’ve ever looked at the back of an ibuprofen bottle, you might need to squint to read all this information. Printing such small text that’s still legible is often done using flexo printing because of the tight registration requirements.


As a rule of thumb, the drug must be safe for consumption, and the packaging shouldn't leach any contaminants into the product. How can you guarantee that packaging is 100% safe, though?

For starters, you want to follow the Quality by Design (QbD) approach for medication dispensing bottles. QbD focuses on upholding quality throughout the design process with risk-management and analytical methodologies. Hence, it enables a robust framework for design quality while remaining compliant with predefined standards. 

You also want to use FDA-compliant packaging materials. Some of these materials include printing inks and medical plastics. For instance, FDA-compliant printing ink must be impermeable so as not to contaminate the drugs inside.


We all know the effects of non-biodegradable materials on the environment, don't we? Pharmaceutical packaging designers can contribute toward environmental sustainability by eliminating single-use plastics and replacing them with recyclable materials. The good news is that flexo offers a variety of recyclable and biodegradable materials!

You're probably wondering: How can you recycle medication bottles? Simple! Today, several pharmacies are embracing a take-back program where you return the container upon emptying it. Likewise, there are recycling centers spread across the states where you can recycle your medication bottle.

Examples of Pharmaceutical Packaging Designs

We’ve talked about the design principles for pharmaceutical packaging, but let’s get into the real meat of the topic. 

Some of the most common medical packaging types include:

  • Blister packs
  • Medication bottles
  • Medication patches
  • Foil & paper packaging

Blister Packs

Blister packs are particularly preferred for over-the-counter drugs, pharmaceuticals, and food. They're made by adjoining a rigid plastic to some type of backing using an adhesive. 

(To learn more, check out the comprehensive blister card packaging checklist.) 

One of the most common questions concerning this packaging design has always been: “Can you recycle pill blister packs?” The short answer is NO! You should dispose of them in the trash.

Labels for Medication Bottles

Labels should be designed with above-par keenness because a slight error could pose the risk of accidental misuse among consumers. 

For instance, fold-out labels require tight spacing and registration to match the dye that cuts them out. The folded piece should also be designed in such a way that it allows removability or resealing to the final product package.

Medication Patches

Medication patches offer an ingenious way of delivering drugs into the bloodstream through the skin. Printing medical wearable patches for drug delivery requires the same precision as medication bottle labels, but also requires the right kind of ink. Incorrect inks could leech into the patch, posing a dangerous contamination risk.

Foil & Paper Packaging 

Pharmaceutical foil packaging is a non-toxic, lightweight, odorless substrate mainly used for capsule and tablet packaging. It’s also viable for packaging powdered medications. 

Paper is another popular packaging material for consumer medications. Think about cough-drop wrappers! The right materials are required to avoid contamination.

Why Use Flexo for Pharmaceutical Packaging Design? 

Flexo printing sets the pace for other technologies like gravure and lithography, thanks to its cost-effectiveness, quality, and longevity, among other admirable attributes. Here's why you should choose flexographic printing for pharmaceutical packaging:

  • Longevity. Flexo printing utilizes sleeve image carriers, which outlast plates by far, thanks to their polymer or elastomer make. 
  • Cost-effectiveness. Unlike gravure image carriers, which are exorbitant, flexo is moderately priced and long-lasting, giving you value for your money. 
  • Quality. Flexo enables prints with higher resolution and detail, allowing it to handle more complex prints that were initially associated with gravure. 
  • Speed. Flexography printing is fast and precise thanks to a continuous cylinder, eliminating the plate's risk of lifting off. 
  • Productivity. If you're looking for a printing technology with fast setup time, effortless registration, and less pharmaceutical packaging waste, flexo has you covered.

That’s a Wrap on Pharmaceutical Packaging

And that's it for pharmaceutical packaging design! Hopefully, this short guide helped you understand what it takes to design readable, safe, and sustainable pharma packaging products.

If you’re looking for a packaging printing method that can satisfy all your design needs, flexo is the way to go. 

Check out our guide to learn more about why flexo is the best!

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Tags: Flexographic Printing, Quality, Blister Packaging, regulations, sustainability

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