Pharmaceutical packaging: how will it change in the next 5 years?

“The very strong turnout we see this week is sign of increased positivity across the industry, with executives in drug delivery and packaging companies actively seeking new partners and looking to increase outsourcing in 2024. There is a real desire to explore new capabilities and solutions to meet rising demand in the next few years.” The words are from Laura Indriksone, brand manager of Pharmapack Europe. 

And we have been there, at Pharmapack, one of the must-attend events for pharmaceutical professionals. The trade fair, held in Paris at the end of January, brought together 5,000 visitors and 300 exhibitors, confirming it as a reference point for the European pharmaceutical industry: among technological novelties, production innovations and trends that will drive the market, there are many aspects to keep your eyes on. 

Pharmapack is a veritable showcase that not only unveils the latest innovations and technologies in the field of pharmaceutical packaging, but also provides a preview of the pharmaceutical packaging trends that will shape the sector over the next 5 years. In particular, there are 3 fronts that will see pharmaceutical companies most involved: sustainability, the wellness market and anti-counterfeiting. 

Let us take a closer look at them:

1. Environmentally sustainable pharmaceutical packaging

Sustainability was certainly also a prominent theme at Pharmapack 2024, and it is not a concept ‘dropped from above’ but a sentiment that is becoming more and more alive among the people working in the Pharma supply chain, calling upon different stakeholders who have to align themselves along the entire chain: from the production of the drug, to packaging, to distribution to the end consumer. The proof? 

Inside the Pharmapack premises, this roll-up was installed where patrons could express, on the spot, which trend had the biggest impact on the Pharma sector according to their perception. As can be seen from the photo (taken by our Sales Manager), there is no doubt that ‘sustainability and circularity’ are a hot topic

The survey clearly indicates that it is ‘Carbon free solutions’ and ‘Sustainability and Circularity’ that are the most impactful topics for those who actually work in Pharma. We are far beyond pure compliance with regulations or international agendas. Sustainability is already part of the everyday mindset.

Discussions at the conference tables highlighted the challenge of aligning sustainability goals with the complexities of the modern supply chain, emphasising the importance of transparency, sustainable production processes and the adoption of technologies that reduce the carbon footprint.

These trends underline the importance for companies to adopt sustainable practices, not only to comply with regulations and meet consumer expectations, but also to ensure patient safety and (last but not least) branding and enhancement to meet growing consumer expectations. Not to mention that by now even international regulations are looking to the circular economy as a new development model. 

A challenge that the pharmaceutical packaging sector cannot afford to live from the rear.

2. Pharmaceutical packaging towards a ‘holistic’ market?

The growing consumer demand for products that promote a holistic approach to health includes not only the treatment of diseases but also the general improvement of physical and mental well-being. A category that is traditionally referred to as ‘parapharmaceuticals’ but which perhaps today finds it more appropriate to present itself to the public with a ‘holistic’ approach. 

This trend has been fuelled by consumer interest in products that improve health, nutrition, physical appearance, sleep and mindfulness, reflecting a shift towards a healthier and more conscious lifestyle. In particular, the numbers for Nutraceuticals stand out: according to Global Market Insights, the market for nutraceuticals in 2022 stood at a turnover of USD 423 billion with an expected CAGR of 4.5 per cent over the period 2023 – 2032. 

This is an important opportunity for pharmaceutical companies, not least because these are among the products most sold online, and the growth of the web as a sales channel in turn poses new challenges in terms of distribution but also of communication, since we are addressing the end public directly. Two levels that in the digital age increasingly overlap, almost to the point of coinciding. In particular, the focus is on three levels:

  • The adoption of advanced technologies that enable consumers to have greater control and understanding of the products they use, such as tracking the origin of products and ingredients through QR codes or equivalent technologies;
  • Improving supply chain transparency means enabling consumers to verify the authenticity, quality and safety of the products they buy. This includes providing detailed information on the origins of ingredients, production processes and sustainable practices adopted by companies. 
  • Personalised and interconnected products: we have often written about how personalised medicines are the new frontier of Pharma. However, this also applies to parapharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and pharmacosmetics. The new pharmaceutical packaging will have to be able to enhance these new products, becoming more than ever a vehicle for communication and facilitated use.

3. Pharmaceutical packaging: an anti-counterfeiting resource

The illegal counterfeit drug market continues to be a major concern for the Pharma world, a concern that also came to the fore during the last Pharmapack. At the centre of the debates is the adoption of solutions such as serialisation, which tracks each item with a unique code along the distribution chain, and the use of advanced technologies such as blockchain or digital fingerprinting to effectively prevent counterfeiting, diversion and misuse of drugs. 

The main measures discussed during the event revolved around three topics:

  • Adoption of anti-tampering solutions and unique identifiers.

 In accordance with the European Union’s Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), all prescription medicines sold in the EU must be fitted with a tamper-proof solution and a unique identifier, readable by both machines and humans. This approach, known as serialisation, allows each individual item to be tracked and traced with a unique code throughout the supply chain, from manufacturer to end consumer.

  • Use of advanced technologies for additional protection. To combat drug counterfeiting more effectively, pharmaceutical companies should start considering additional layers of protection, such as digital fingerprinting. These solutions, which cannot be replicated, can be integrated with existing packaging, offering an additional layer of security.
  • Application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) solutions These technologies can help detect inconsistencies in the supply chain, even highlighting potential cases of counterfeiting. The implementation of such advanced solutions can ensure product quality and patient safety, while minimising the pharmaceutical company’s economic loss. 

Pharmaceutical packaging: a growth perspective

Taking stock of what has emerged, the pharmaceutical packaging sector looks set for strong growth, driven by several key factors that we have just seen. 

The continued expansion of the pharmaceutical industry, especially in countries such as India and China, is driving high demand for advanced and specialised packaging solutions. This is due to the increase in pharmaceutical production, which directly translates into a higher demand for innovative and compliant packaging solutions. 

Major pharma companies are already adopting strategies focused on innovation, sustainability and product safety, positioning themselves to capitalise on the opportunities presented by these emerging trends.

Challenging times call for a partner who is up to meeting them! The pharmaceutical sector demands the highest standards of quality and safety, which not all production facilities are able to meet because specific machinery and procedures are required. 

Tubettificio Perfektüp has more than 80 years’ experience in the production of packaging for the international pharmaceutical market and has always managed to innovate in order to keep up with changes and to better meet the diverse needs of its clients. 

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