Bringing colour to drug packaging

Related tags Pharmacology Over-the-counter drug

Belgium's Milliken Chemical and Rexam Pharma teamed up to bring a
splash of colour to the often drab world of over-the-counter (OTC)
drug packaging.

Traditionally, pill jars are moulded in white opaque polyethylene (PE), which meets the necessary barrier properties in respect of moisture and UV light shielding, as well as providing a clean clinical appearance. But despite these qualities, this material leaves little room for the marketing department to flex its creative muscles.

Now, Rexam and Milliken have developed a pill jar moulded in clarified polypropylene (PP), which gives glass-like clarity and can be provided in a range of colours, while maintaining the standards for UV resistance set out by the US Pharmacopoeia and other regulatory bodies.

The companies believe the technology can bring a competitive advantage over more expensive clear PET and glass packaging.

"A see-through pill jar is a novel idea, particularly for the pharmaceutical market which is by nature very conservative"​ said Marc Hamel, sales and marketing director for Rexam Pharma. However, a clear coloured jar can provide advantages both for the consumer and the marketer, he added.

For example transparent packaging gives the consumer an immediate visual indication of how many pills are left in the jar and, therefore, a timely reminder of when replenishment is needed. And for the OTC drug manufacturer the addition of colour can provide an important product differentiation factor.

"Coloured packaging offers the possibility of use as a coding reference for prescription drugs. This could be a positive benefit to patients by helping them to keep track of their medication when undergoing multi-tablet treatments,"​ suggested Hamel.

Milliken​ has supported the project with technical assistance in fine-tuning colours and colour levels in the pilot production of the new pill jars at Rexam's moulding operations. Initial samples are available in two colours, green and red, but this range can be extended, said the firms.

Hamel noted that the coloured jars are more likely to find their way into new products, rather than rebranded older lines.

"The approvals process both for drugs and packaging is quite long,"​ he said, noting that this makes it unlikely that a manufacturer would replace the existing packaging of an established drug.

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