Tracking Trends in Pharmaceutical Packaging

By Patricia Van Arnum - DCAT Editorial Director

September 2, 2015

From new approaches for patient adherence, to advances in anti-counterfeiting technology, and innovation in for protecting sensitive drugs, DCAT Value Chain Insights (VCI) examines recent trends and product introductions in pharmaceutical packaging.

The pharmaceutical packaging market is projected for strong growth through 2020, driven by innovation for new products and materials and geographic expansion. So what are key areas for growth and how are companies positioning themselves? DCAT Value Chain Insights (VCI) examines the latest developments.

A recent analysis by the Freedonia Group, a Cleveland, Ohio-based market research firm, estimated that world demand for pharmaceutical packaging will rise 6.5% annually to more than $100 billion in 2019. The Africa/Mideast region is projected to be the fastest growing market, followed by the Asia/Pacific region, and Central and South America. Primary containers will remain the dominant segment, led by prefillable syringes, and parenteral vials.

Geographic expansions
Almost 60% of global demand will exist in the developed economies of Canada, Japan, the US, and Western Europe, according to the Freedonia analysis. India and China will be the fastest growing markets due to rapidly expanding pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities and the adoption of more stringent regulations aimed at improving the quality and integrity of domestically produced pharmaceuticals. Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, and various other countries of the Asia/Pacific, Central and South America, and Africa/Mideast regions are among developing markets that are expected to expand and diversify drug-producing industries and register above average gains in pharmaceutical packaging product demand.

Over the long term, the US will continue to form the largest national pharmaceutical packaging product market due to its role in advancing innovative pharmaceuticals and related packaging demand. Demand in Western Europe will remain comparatively high and expand steadily due to the impact of new product introductions and upgraded government standards covering unit dose, high barrier, and anti-counterfeit packaging of many types of medicines. Based on broad contingents of proprietary and generic drug producers, Canada and Japan will continue to be large, diverse consumers of pharmaceutical packaging products. However, both countries will see below average growth in demand as drug makers pursue greater packaging efficiencies to offset medication pricing pressures.

Product segment growth
On a product basis, global demand for primary pharmaceutical containers will expand 6.5% annually to more than $64 billion in 2019, according to the Freedonia analysis. Prefillable syringes and parenteral vials will see above average growth due to new injectable therapies. Based on uses in the bulk and prescription dose packaging of solid dose oral ethical drugs and the large quantity packaging of over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements, plastic bottles will continue to have the largest demand globally among primary pharmaceutical containers, or $20.6 billion in 2019, according to the Freedonia analysis. Blister packaging will comprise the second largest selling group of primary pharmaceutical containers, based on adaptability to unit dose and clinical trial dosage formats with expanded label content, high visibility, and built-in track-and-trace features.

Freedonia estimates that pharmaceutical pouches will grow at a below average pace as uses remain limited to the unit-dose packaging of transdermal, powder, and topical medicines. Prefillable inhalers will exhibit faster demand gains as the number of chronic asthma, allergy, and migraine patients treated with inhalation drugs rises globally. Advances in aesthetic and barrier properties will keep tubes a leading container for topical medication. However, competition from plastic dispensing bottles and unit dose pouches will moderate overall revenue growth. The world market for glass pharmaceutical bottles will expand slowly as plastic bottles and blister packs capture oral drug applications, according to the analysis.

A recent trend analysis on pharmaceutical primary packaging as part of the ACHEMA Trend Reports pointed to some recent developments in primary packaging design. ACHEMA is the large trade show and conference, held every three years, on chemical, pharmaceutical, and food processing. It was held in June 2015 in Frankfurt, and the trend analysis report was issued in March 2015. Among developments in primary packaging, it pointed to Schott's new design for reducing possible interaction between the active ingredient and the primary packaging to provide a level of safety for sensitive active ingredients similar to that of pharmaceutical vials. The channel that connects the hub and the needle in the new syringes is made of flexible plastic. A seal keeps the liquid passageway closed during storage. The medication cannot come into contact with the metal needle or the adhesive in the syringe during shipment and storage. For added quality, tamper-proofing makes it immediately obvious whether the syringe is new or has already been used.

Another example was the development by a subsidiary of Harro Höfliger for a straw for children and the elderly that can be used to administer the active ingredient in pellet form. Patients can ingest the medication along with a beverage, and exact dosing and a control filter ensure that the correct dose is taken.

With regard to innovation in process control and quality in primary packaging, the report pointed to a new induction sealing inspection technique for pharmaceutical containers by DIR Technologies. During the sealing process, the system performs 100% sealing integrity inspection and fill-level detection on pharmaceutical containers such as bottles, bags and sachets. Inspection takes place in real time using thermal imaging technology through the closed cap. Future goals for the technology is to localize defects during induction sealing with greater precision and pinpoint exactly where to take corrective action at high throughput rates without slowing down production.

Another development from a team of developers in Singapore is self-expiring packaging that automatically draws the user's attention to the expiry date. The blister pack is made of multi-layer plastic with warning symbols printed on the innermost layer. Once the expiration date has passed, the diffusible material between the layers disintegrates, exposing the warning symbols. Among other things, the system could be used for older patients who are unable to read the expiry date that appears on the packaging in small print. Another separate innovation was for printed electronics. The packaging has built-in temperature sensors made of nanomaterials which can remind patients to take their medication.