Explore the world of pharmaceutical labels and packaging to inspire new ideas and avoid confusion.
For many products, changing trends in label designs and packaging focus on aesthetics and grabbing attention on store shelves. For pharmaceuticals, more attention is paid to the clarity of information and consumer safety — and for a good reason. The rules for packaging are strict, and any errors can result in expensive recalls. For every new regulation designed to protect consumers, pharmaceutical manufacturers need to make yet another change to their packaging and labeling, and they need to pay close attention to avoid costly mistakes.
Following current trends and new regulations is about more than compliance. Consumers need to trust that the medicine in their cabinets is safe, and they have all the information they need to consume it properly. The more trust is built with consumers, the more competitive a company can be. And since pharmaceuticals are set to be a $149.3 Billion industry by 2026, it's wise to do everything you can to stay on top of the latest trends and regulations.
Let's examine 6 of the most critical trends in pharmaceutical packaging and labeling that will have the most significant impact on your operation.
Serialized Tracking and Tracing
The Drug Quality and Security Act is an initiative enacted in 2013 by the United States to fight theft and counterfeiting of drugs through serialized tracking and tracing. The requirements of track-and-trace are an attempt to ensure that every prescription drug is accounted for and has made its way to the consumer.
Serialization attaches a specific serial number to every prescription product sold. The FDA recommends Standard Numerical Identifiers (SNIs), which includes the National Drug Code (NDC) and Serial Number (SN) to become the Serialized National Drug Code (sNDC) for that product. The client or manufacturer can create these codes. Once the codes are set, every prescription bottle will get a 2D barcode printed on the label for tracking.
The Drug Supply Chain and Security Act will require all manufacturers to have electronic tracing for their drugs by 2023.
To fight counterfeit drugs, new measures are being developed to ensure that the drugs that reach consumers are the ones shipped out. There are two methods that stand out due to their effectiveness:
- Invisible Security Inks: Micro Texts or QR codes can be printed on a bottle with invisible ink that will only become visible under certain conditions, such as under a UV light or when embedded "taggants" react to a specific reader designed to detect them. In fact, some invisible inks aren't invisible at all, but change color or disappear when exposed to UV light.
- Radio Frequency ID Tags: These tags are hard to fake and can be easily tracked when embedded in a label.
The growing popularity of materials that are more environmentally friendly and sustainable has caused many manufacturers to begin using them. Consumers, especially millennials and younger demographics, consider using such materials to be a selling point.
Using labels made from recycled paper can show consumers your commitment to the environment. Using less packaging materials can also help create less waste and reduce shipping costs due to lower overall weight. Biodegradable materials can also be beneficial when your packaging gets thrown in the trash instead of being recycled!
Another way waste is being eliminated is through the use of linerless labels. Generally, labels are made with a backing that must be peeled off before they can be applied to a container. Linerless labels adhere to each other, usually on a giant roll. This roll then feeds into a label machine, and there is zero waste after the final label gets applied.
Smaller Production Batches
For highly personalized medicines and biologics, production batches often need to be small to avoid contamination and expiration. This means more labels must be printed for consumers and storage purposes. Such small batches require labeling machines that can handle low production runs and essentially tailor packaging to small groups of people or even one person.
Many manufacturers are packaging doses in individual blister packs, bags, or containers with specific dates printed on them to clarify which medication is supposed to be taken at a given time. Doing this makes dosing easier for patients.
The challenge posed by this new way of packaging is that individual doses usually can't be packed with a desiccant to prevent outside elements from contaminating the medication. However, advances in blister packs make it possible to keep individual doses viable for longer. For example, Activ-Blister from Aptar CSP Technologies absorbs moisture or oxygen that might damage the medication.
3D printing has revolutionized packaging, with more creative shapes and sizes being possible than even a few years ago. It also makes prototyping and small lots easier to achieve since a manufacturer doesn't have to wait for an outside order of containers to arrive.
A 3D printed bottle could come right off the printer and get fed into a shrink sleeve labeler, which would enable creative and customized bottle shapes to get instant, regulatory compliant labels with all relevant information and a tamper-evident seal.
Label Machines To Take You Into The Future
Pharmaceutical labeling trends and regulations can seem daunting, but a trustworthy labeling partner can help you stay informed and compliant. Pack Leader USA has labeling machines suitable for any size pharmaceutical manufacturer and the support to keep your packaging line moving.