Aluminum tubes for the pharmaceutical industry: a classic that never goes out of style

The aluminum tube is still one of the packaging most readily associated with the pharmaceutical industry. Anti-contracture ointments, anti-irritation creams, ointments and many other drugs find the aluminum tube to be the ideal tool for easy and safe transportation, storage and use.  

In recent decades, many other packaging solutions have emerged as alternatives to the aluminum tube, but none have been able to replace it!  

The loyalty of such a demanding market as Pharmaceuticals has led companies in other sectors (cosmetics first and foremost) to question the reasons for such a long association and to wonder whether it can be repeated successfully for their products as well. 

In more than 80 years of experience in producing aluminum drug tubes, we have had the opportunity to work alongside many major internationally active pharmaceutical companies and thoroughly understand their needs. 

We have gathered in this article the 5 key reasons why, in our opinion, the aluminum tube still remains the best choice of pharmaceutical packaging for healing ointments and salves. 

The aluminum tube: safe packaging  

Safety is one of the key attributes. In fact, pharmaceutical packaging has a protective function on 2 different levels:  

  • must protect the product inside it from environmental factors that could contaminate it, such as bacteria or mold, or alter it, such as light or air, which exposes it to oxidation. The aluminum tube succeeds in both of these tasks: for aluminum provides a perfect barrier to air and light and is free of porosity from which bacteria could enter. It also contains no air inside, unlike some plastic tubes. Not only that, the drug is dispensed without the need to submerge items that could inoculate the bacteria, such as spatulas or the fingers of the hand. This allows the product to keep intact longer and makes the aluminum tube a suitable packaging even for natural or homeopathic preparations with low preservative content. 
  • Packaging must also protect the integrity–of its brand! Indeed, pharmaceutical companies have to deal with the dangerous phenomenon of counterfeiting-a very profitable business for the organized underworld. In 2021, EUROPOL (European Police Office) and EUPIO (European Union Intellectual Property Office) disclosed that counterfeiting of drugs represents in fact, a business of about $4 billion internationally and poses a serious threat to people’s health. And counterfeiting also comes through packaging, the element most visually associated with the product. Favia aluminum tubes can be printed through offset printing processes, digital printing, or a combination of the two. We have implemented the special ToBeUnique method, which allows printing on the closure capsule and the body of the tube to be combined in a single process, for unique design results that deter counterfeit attempts. Special digital solutions are also available that allow multimedia content to be added to the tube by scanning it with a special app.  

The aluminum tube: manageable packaging 

Medications are not just used in hospitals: especially for the chronically ill, they are a daily and constant presence that must be easily managed in whatever environment we find ourselves. This is true for all medications but is especially true for creams, ointments and salves, which are very often used outdoors. The “carry-on” medication must therefore be lightweight, convenient to use and manageable. And the aluminum tube meets all these characteristics.  

Indeed, it offers perfect dispensing control, which prevents splashes and spills, even if the hand handling it is inexperienced or unsteady. This is true both for self-applications and in all those cases in which it is necessary to apply the medication to other, perhaps uncooperative, subjects, such as children or animals It can be resealed and stored in the bag in total safety and without risk of product spillage or breakage (think about glass jars). It also does not need any other supporting tools to be used.  

The aluminum tube: a hygienic packaging 

Aluminum tubes are particularly suitable for regulatory contamination prevention procedures such as irradiation. Thanks to the partnership with the most important Italian irradiation center, Tubettificio Favia can supply tubes already irradiated at the standard dose of 25 kGray or prepare the tubes with a packaging suitable for their filling in a sterile area, defining with each customer the packaging and packing specifications to optimize the transport phases in absolute safety. 

But the hygiene of the aluminum tube is not only about production, but also (and especially) about the relationship with the end user. Compared to other types of packaging, the aluminum tube better manages the dispensing of the product without it being contaminated by external agents or our own hands. This makes it extremely hygienic and also allows us to share the cream or ointment with other people safely (a detail we learned to pay attention to during the pandemic…).  

In addition, aluminum tubes are easy to clean and…keep clean! Just wipe it with a damp cloth or, once closed with its capsule, be placed under a jet of water: the aluminum is totally waterproof and the product, inside will always remain safe. 

The aluminum tube: an anti-waste packaging

One of the main advantages of using aluminum tubes for pharmaceuticals is the fact that the tube can be squeezed to the end, managing to dispense all of its contents down to the last drop. And thanks to the barrier effect of aluminum, even that last drop will retain its characteristics. The same cannot be said for plastic tubes, as they can retain air inside when the action of squeezing them to dispense the product is performed.  

Not only that, very often, substantial residue remains inside that cannot be recovered except by cutting it off by the “tail.” However, this exposes the residual product to air, light to possible bacterial contamination. Quite a waste, which is avoided by choosing the aluminum tube. A feature that makes it definitely attractive for other uses as well: the “Zero Waste” road is beginning to be taken by other sectors such as cosmetics (and pharmacosmetics) and the Food sector. 

The aluminum tube: environmentally sustainable packaging 

With the advent of the pandemic and the huge amount of medical waste that has resulted, even Big Pharma has begun to question the need to choose environmentally sustainable packaging: after all, people’s health is closely linked to the health of the Environment.  

There are many companies that are going down this path, trying to curb the indiscriminate use of plastic. But the alternative must be reliable: this means not only that it must satisfy all 4 points above, but also it must provide certainty within the production and supply chain.  

The aluminum tube largely meets this requirement because aluminum can be 100% recycled indefinitely without losing its qualities and with less energy expenditure than production from raw material.  

But we wanted to go further, paving the way for new future developments: thanks to Tobenatural, the closure capsule of our tubes is made entirely of a compostable biopolymer. A solution that, if one day applied to pharma, would lead pharmaceutical packaging to have a near-zero impact! An aspect that may also prove decisive from a market point of view, for all those “over-the-counter” self-medication drugs on which the choice of the end consumer, who is increasingly attentive to sustainability, hangs.  

Would you like to learn more? Contact us for information about aluminum drug tubes! We will be happy to answer all your questions and send you a product sample. 

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