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Transforming pharmaceutical packaging through advanced machinery

6 Mar, 2024

The pharmaceutical industry is a multi-trillion-dollar global industry, catering to billions of consumers and their health and wellbeing needs worldwide. And, as the world’s population grows and life expectancy increases, the pharmaceutical industry will grow as well.

Indeed, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, by 2071 Australia’s population will increase to 34–45 million people and the average age from the current 38 years to 43–48 years. Not only that, more than 80% of Australians have at least one long-term health condition.

These are huge numbers – and they present a huge opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to help more people manage their health outcomes.

At the same time, the pharmaceutical industry is heavily regulated, with strict controls in place to ensure companies appropriately manage their responsibilities in delivering not just quality, safe and secure products, but products that arrive to consumers in quality, safe and secure packaging.

So how is the industry responding? And why is pharmaceutical packaging so important?

 

Pharma packaging basics

Pharmaceutical and medical packaging is not just any old packaging – and it’s also about more than aesthetics or delivering product information.

Pharmaceutical packaging must comply with stringent regulatory standards, which may vary between countries or regions. It must also adhere to the highest standards of quality and security to protect its contents.

Packaging has to be non-reactive, durable and capable of withstanding various environmental conditions without degrading, and often needs to include security features such as child-resistant lids and tamper-proof seals.

Then there’s consumption. We use pharmaceuticals in many ways, which means a multitude of packaging forms: blister packs for tablets and capsules, sachets and pouches for powders, gels or liquids, bottles and vials for liquids, and even syringes and inhalers.

There’s actually nothing at all basic about pharmaceutical packaging!

 

Packaging processes and benefits of packaging machines

Producing pharmaceutical packaging, then filling it with its various contents, is a complex and technical process from start to finish. But cutting-edge machinery and technology allow for real-time monitoring and control, significantly reduce the risk of errors, and ensure that products reach consumers as intended. This is essential to meet the strict standards and regulations that govern the industry.

These machines are adaptable to various packaging forms, making them versatile tools in handling diverse packaging needs and helping avoid potential risks of manual packaging processes.

Pharmaceutical packaging machines offer superior precision in standardised product dosage, package filling and security sealing, where inaccuracy, biosecurity concerns and potential contamination could cause serious injury or even death, and could result in unwanted reputational damage, negative media, customer boycotts, loss of regulatory approval, financial losses and legal/compensation claims.

 

Pharma packaging in Australia

The market for pharma packaging here in Australia is actually quite small – which presents both opportunities and challenges.

More often than not, the local industry will not produce custom runs of packaging in Australia due to its relatively small market size. Instead, the pharmaceutical company will typically import products and packaging, for example sunscreen bottles or tablet blister packs, that have been manufactured in bulk overseas and filled with the particular pharmaceutical product.

A network of suppliers in Australia then collaborates across the supply chain to “rework” these products for the local market. Reworking includes several steps, such as producing local product information labels, applying these to the packaging, reboxing the products into locally printed and assembled cartons, and selling and distributing these in the Australian market.

At Rawson, we print and produce shelf-ready and localised packaging and cartons to rigorous pharmaceutical standards that ensure durability, strength and security for the products packed inside them. We work with other suppliers, including label producers and reworking companies, who fill our packaging and cartons with the reworked products and deliver these to major supermarkets and health and beauty retailers Australia-wide.

 

Sustainability in pharmaceutical packaging

Sustainability may not be the first thing you think of in the medical or pharmaceutical industries, where single-use, non-recyclable products like syringes, gloves, scrubs and intravenous drips are common.

But there are exciting innovations in pharmaceutical packaging as consumers demand sustainable options, and governments and certain trade regions like the European Union adopt ever-more stringent sustainability regulations.

These innovations include switching to recyclable or reusable packaging materials, designing packaging made of multiple materials to be more easily disassembled for recycling, and even biodegradable and compostable packaging materials.

Not only that, there’s the packaging production process itself. At Rawson Print & Packaging we’re a “closed loop” manufacturer: all our printing and packaging processes take place in our Sydney factory, and waste products are collected and reused where possible and recycled if they can’t be reused. This saves a huge amount of energy, packaging materials, chemicals and water.

 

Quality and compliance

Quality and regulatory compliance are non-negotiables in pharmaceutical packaging. At Rawson, we’re proud to have industry certifications and initiatives, including a company-wide quality assurance program and precision-engineered solutions, to guarantee product integrity, compliance and safety.

This is just one of the reasons why we’re the trusted packaging supplier to ten pharmaceutical companies that audit our facility, systems and processes annually.

 

Technological advances in the future

We’re always interested in innovation in the packaging industry – and one such exciting possibility in pharma packaging is the integration of blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI).

Blockchain is an advanced database that stores and links blocks of data in a chain, which can dramatically improve the efficiency of supply chain tracing and security, and reduce the risk of damaged, inferior or interfered products entering the market. AI brings intelligent automation and higher accuracy to packaging processes. It can help prevent potential packaging errors by analysing data patterns, and potentially even help improve packaging design for sustainability purposes.

In the meantime, at Rawson we continue to work with our customers to supply packaging with our uncompromising commitment to quality. When you entrust us with your pharmaceutical business, you can be sure that your products reach your customers safely and securely.

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