Pharmaceutical packaging represents a $124 billion global market and is on the upswing at a continuous average growth rate (CAGR) of about 6% year-over-year. Unlike other packaging segments, medicine is something that's always going to be in high demand. This was particularly evident during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, some of the most popular pharmaceutical packaging formats include:
- Blister packs (or blister cards)
- Other specialty flexible packaging
Relevant Content: What is blister card packaging?
But as this packaging segment continues to evolve, so too will its trends. In this post, we'll take a closer look at some of the key trends in pharmaceutical packaging in 2023 and beyond.
We explain the new expectations when it comes to packaging a pharmaceutical product, including any secondary packaging requirements.
3 Emerging Pharmaceutical Packaging Industry Trends
Pharmaceutical packaging is already a very advanced market, but there are a few things that the industry is working toward to modernize itself for the benefit of both producers and buyers. These include making packaging more:
- Accessible to patients
- Environmentally friendly
- Easy to produce
While all packaging aims to be convenient and consumer-friendly, pharma packaging is perhaps the definition of this imperative. Nowadays, a lot of people are self-medicating (think: insulin pumps and auto-injectors), so informing the patient is always the No.1 priority.
Think about everything that needs to be printed on pharmaceutical packaging:
- Usage instructions
- Allergy warnings
- Disposal instructions
- Expiration dates
- Emergency care contact information
Pharmaceutical packaging and all the details printed on it must be clear, legible, and prominent. Unlike other consumer products, the primary purpose of the packaging is to inform buyers instead of persuade them.
Sustainability and environmentally friendly packaging is a major trend in packaging in general, let alone in pharmaceutical packaging. When it comes to pharmaceuticals, the packaging industry has to balance patient safety with environmental efforts.
One emerging trend in pharma is the concept of quality by design, or QbD. This initiative ensures that medicine is administered to patients as intended and nothing environmentally harmful escapes the packaging. Antibiotic environmental contamination is and has been a big problem in recent years. QbD can help curb this.
With QbD, the focus is an effective design process that incorporates a multiple variants with risk assessment at every stage of the process. Meanwhile, QbD encourages flexibility within the defined parameters of the process. Benefits of QbD include:
- A reduction in the oversight needed, due to the increased attention during the process
- Results explained as part of the process improvement over time
- Improved efficiency
- Improved product quality through real-time monitoring
- Drug quality consistency
Additionally, recycling continues to trend in a positive direction in all packaging formats. This even includes flexible plastic packaging, which is becoming an easily recyclable packaging format. There’s also a push to find solutions for single-use plastic, but in the medical field, that presents a particular challenge. Therefore, single-use plastic continues to be utilized, while other types of plastic are evaluated for its replacement.
Ease of Production
How quickly can manufacturers produce medication? How quickly can they get it packaged and out for distribution?
There's a high demand for medication amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and it's putting greater pressure on manufacturers to produce it faster without sacrificing quality.
Having pharma packaging that’s easy to produce and simple to use can decrease lead time for important medical products. In 2021, packaging designers will continue to innovate to find faster packaging solutions.
Taking Pharmaceutical Packaging to New Heights
Pharmaceutical packaging industry trends are rapidly changing to keep up with the fast-paced medical industry, and so should your flexo printing operations. Taking these three trends into account can help keep you ahead of the competition.
Innovative flexo printing solutions can make your overall printing operations faster, more efficient, and better for the environment. Check out this ebook about maximizing your printing capabilities by fixing your substrate issues, whether you’re working with blister cards or flexible plastic.
(Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in October 2020 and was updated in September 2022 to reflect the most current information.)