The pandemic’s impact on pharma and medical packaging solutions

Roy Butcher, Procurement Manager at Southgate Packaging, discusses the critical role of pharmaceutical packaging during the pandemic, the rise of e-commerce and the need to supply secure and safe solutions

During the past year, ensuring medical products are available to both healthcare professionals and consumers has been key. As a result, the packaging industry has worked hard to provide innovative solutions using both traditional and e-commerce distribution channels with quick turnaround times.

From this, it has been highlighted to the world that it’s the perfect partnership between medical advancements and the right packaging that has enabled effective supply.

It is estimated that the pharmaceutical packaging market will experience growth at a compound annual rate of 6.1% during the forecast period of 2020–2027. This growth has and will be accompanied by changes in technical requirements and market demands that are driving opportunities for innovation.

One aspect of the market that has seen huge growth, and one which we have witnessed first-hand, is e-commerce pharmaceuticals. Although this has been a practice for some time now, 4.3 million adults across the UK have ordered medication online for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

There are various reasons why people have turned to postal deliveries for their medication, such as ease and convenience, to avoid making journeys to the pharmacy and to prevent the risk of infection from COVID-19.

It will be interesting to see if this drastic shift in behaviour is set to stay in the long-term and, if so, how this will change the way the pharma and packaging industries work in harmony.

Roy Butcher

Ensuring that pharmaceutical products are delivered from factory to patient in a safe yet efficient manner is a complex operation. Complex restrictions and performance requirements must be met, all while ensuring that the product is protected and untampered on its journey.

As a result, packaging companies are consistently introducing new ways to manufacture, assemble, fill and seal pharma products to ensure successful end-to-end delivery.

At Southgate, we design our products with safety at the forefront. For example, our range of Tegracheck security tapes are made with an aggressive adhesive that prevents removal of the tape without clear evidence, revealing an “OPEN VOID” message.

And, last year, we wrapped up five million NHS COVID-19 home testing kits using our range of self-seal bags to minimise the danger of excessive handling and contamination. Our design meant that the tests could be quickly and efficiently sealed and sent out to people who were unable to attend test sites.

Adding to the complex requirement of security is the ever-growing need for sustainable packaging. Typically, pharmaceutical packaging is disposable; but, since the pandemic, the utilisation of single-use packaging has seen an even greater increase.

In the pharma industry, requirements such as performance, processing and cost outweigh the need for sustainability. Yet, the industry is still working hard to minimise its environmental impact and introduce more recyclable solutions that don’t compromise performance.

Undoubtedly, designing and specifying the packaging used throughout the end-to-end supply for medicines is a complex challenge — and the packaging specialist’s role has been a critical one throughout the pandemic.

Yet, our function is becoming ever more important as we prepare to meet new consumer requirements, sustainability goals and increased demand. A challenge that Southgate accepts.

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