Enhancing inclusion in pharma packaging

Published: 31-Mar-2022

Federico Piutti, Innovation Manager at Bormioli Pharma, explains how to improve usability and therapy adherence for patients with disabilities

The World Bank estimates that up to 1 billion people worldwide have some form of disability. This applies both to developing countries and even the most mature economies wherein the ageing population means that this figure is continuously increasing.

For example, the European Disability Forum states that 10–15% of the EU27 population have disabilities, which is equivalent to approximately 50 million people. Many of these will be supported on an everyday basis by a family member or a professional caregiver. Finally, in the US, people with disabilities represent the third largest market behind baby boomers and seniors.

This overview shows us that a considerable number of consumers could, potentially, be totally or partially cut off from the autonomous consumption of goods; it also highlights the relevance of this demographic to suppliers — and pharmaceutical companies in particular — as people with disabilities spend 22% more than the general population on medication and drugs.1

In recent years, several industries have addressed the need to increase their level of inclusion by developing concepts that are specifically designed to make utilisation easier for less able consumers. This trend is particularly visible in hi-tech products, in FMCG and also in packaging; the most prominent and recent example being Kellogg Europe Trading who introduced new features on their packaging to make it more inclusive to visually impaired people.

Within the pharmaceutical industry, packaging manufacturers must make progress towards inclusion for people with disabilities.

Not only is it a valuable market, it’s important to safeguard the health of these patients by improving their autonomy and therapy adherence.

Bormioli Pharma is leading is process and is both committed to developing accessible packaging solutions and enhancing people’s awareness. This has been done by calling for a shift towards inclusivity in the pharmaceutical industry and promoting the creation of brand-new concepts that are specifically designed to make life easier for people with a disability in terms of therapies and drugs.

To be aligned on the most urgent needs of people with disabilities — and on the possible solutions that could be engineered — a comprehensive analysis framework has been prepared, together with ethnographic research, focus groups and one-to-one interviews.

Moreover, specific collaborations with associations working on inclusivity have been established, including one led by Italian paralympic athlete, Daniele Cassioli; among the ongoing projects is the implementation of a dedicated post-graduate programme at Parma University. This course is structured around the idea of sport as a tool for inclusion and to better educate society about inclusivity.

Finally, some concepts have been developed and presented to the market, such as reshaping the structure and functions of various elements of pharmaceutical containers (bottles, capsules, measuring cups and other accessories).

The first concept, UApt, is an all-in-one solution to administer liquid oral drugs; it comprises a bottle and a measuring cup that are connected through a pump mechanism and a closing shell that can be activated by one-handed pressure on a wide, textured surface.

The measuring cup is then easily accessible by opening an upper lid. A a silicon drinking straw allows the drug to be effectively administered and, finally, an anti-slip pad is positioned at the bottom of the container for improved grip.

The second one, UToo, is a double-chamber element featuring a bottle and measuring cup in which liquid exchange can be activated by pressing a larger, highly visible and coloured button; this allows drug administration with a single movement of the hand or upper arm — by inverting the bottle using a specially designed inclusive handle. Then, a simplified child-proof closure protects the opening of the container to allow the drug to be consumed.

Both these designs could be manufactured as a disposable bundle with customised bottles/devices or could be installed on standard containers, thus providing both accessibility for people with diverse needs and child-proof features.

Looking ahead, though, it’s key to underline that no inclusive revolution is going to happen without a cultural change in manufacturing. This is a common premise in many markets, including pharmaceutical packaging. Indeed, it’s not just about revising existing products; inclusion demands a paradigm shift that fully embraces the needs of users with disabilities.


  1. www.nielsen.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2019/04/reaching-prevalent-diverse-consumers-with-disabilities.pdf.

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