Conversation Starters Part 3: Sustainability in Pharmaceuticals

Posted by Rob Helmke | Tuesday, April 23, 2013 0 Comments

Sustainability is one of the biggest concerns that a packaging company faces today, and in few industries can it be more problematic than pharmaceutical packaging. After all, pharmaceutical packaging has to be difficult for a child to open but easy enough for the elderly, it has to be strong while reducing material and it needs to generate recyclable waste, if possible. One recourse that a packaging company can take is to manufacture compliance packaging as opposed to pill-bottle packaging, and the increasing popularity of compliance packaging may make you ask: What does sustainability mean to you?

pharmaceutical plastic packagingCombining Eco-Friendly and User-Friendly Designs

Compliance-prompting pharmaceutical packaging encourages users to take the doctor-recommended dosages—one example is a tray that holds each dose in an individual cavity, so users only remove one dose of pills at a time instead of accessing the entire package at once. This type of packaging uses several different types of material, including paper, plastic and foil, which may give the illusion of poor sustainability. When made responsibly, though, medical packaging like this can be eco-friendly—particularly by using recyclable plastic for the tray and recycled paper for the sleeve. Perhaps more notably, though, the design of the packaging—not the materials used—make it sustainable for reasons you may not have considered.

For example, according to Packaging World, about half of all medical patients taking medications aren't taking them as prescribed, either taking too many, too little or too infrequently to achieve the right results. [ref] [/ref] Compliance-prompting medical packaging, however, encourages the patient to take the proper dosage, potentially preventing health issues ranging from poor efficacy to accidental death.

Increased Efficiency, Increased Sustainability

Another argument for compliance packaging is that it increases efficiency elsewhere. For example, when medication comes pre-sorted in this type of pharmaceutical packaging, it means that pharmacists spend less time sorting pills out of bulk bottles. It also reduces the risk of patients unsafely disposing of medications, because they are more likely to actually take them as instructed.

Trends show that compliance packaging is gaining popularity with national pharmacy retailers. The host of benefits that result from closer adherence to medications—which is a serious problem in the US—demonstrate that there's plenty to be gained from something as simple as changing your pharmaceutical packaging. Consider the secondary and hidden ways in which compliance packaging is highly sustainable, and ask yourself just how you measure sustainability.

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