Amit Ray, executive director, UFlex, states that the Covi-19 pandemic has triggered the wave of modernization in the pharma packaging space. He says changing lifestyles and rising affordability have altered drug delivery scenarios and created new and past unmet needs. Together with the pandemic, these provide momentum to pharma packaging companies to innovate. “With digitalization taking charge, human intervention with pharma packs has taken two steps back. Pharma products, to reach end-consumers in the most desired state, have to leverage the R&D and innovative attributes of improved packaging.”
Noida-headquartered Uflex’s broad portfolio of innovative pharma packaging solutions includes Alu-Alu blister packs (granted a US patent) as a replacement for conventional cold form laminate. Fast tear strip foils provide easy tear-ability, and child-resistant, senior-friendly foil prevents unintentional damage. Suppository films (PVC/PE or Al/PE laminates) are available for single unit dose packaging. The company can provide flexible packaging for pharma related products such as oral rehydration powders, syringes, suture packs, scalpel blades, and blood banks.
UFlex’ Alu-Alu vs conventional cold form laminate
In conventional blister packaging, a thermoformed plastic sheet contains and maintains the medicines in multiple cups (blisters) in the desired state. Cold form blister packs are manufactured by sandwiching aluminum foil between PVC and Nylon films using dry bond lamination. The film laminate is pressed into a mold by a stamp without applying heat, and the use of aluminum adds water and oxygen barriers, which extend the product shelf-life to their expiry dates.
In UFlex’ Alu-Alu packaging, a unique polyester film replaces the conventional nylon and PVC while retaining aluminum, since both PVC and BON (Biaxially Oriented Nylon film) are prone to emissions when exposed to direct sunlight and higher temperatures. “Alu-Alu foil is a multi-layered structure providing a high range of security to pharmaceutical and generic medicines which are highly hygroscopic or light sensitive and cannot be suitably packed with barrier plastic films. The structure is an optimized combination of aluminum foil and polymeric films with the aluminum layer sandwiched between the inner heat sealable polymeric film and an outer supportive malleable film.”
Cold-formed aluminum foil is at the heart of Alu-Alu OPA/Al/PVC sandwich foil used for pharmaceutical blister pack applications. Even in micron thicknesses, aluminum offers vapor and light barrier properties besides providing an aesthetic shine. Advantages include cost-effectiveness, compliance with regulatory requirements, counterfeit protection, convenience, and a good printing surface for better readability.
Sustainability using a special PET film
According to Ray, Alu-Alu offers sustainability and cost optimization that can beat conventional pharma packs. “It replaces PVC and Nylon with special PET film providing excellence in sustainability by making the laminate eco-friendly, thereby reducing waste disposal and landfills. This special polyester film can be recycled and reprocessed and is 100% environment friendly.”
Ray says that the continuous innovation and up-gradation in Alu-Alu solutions for pharma packaging garners a lot of interest from customers focused on their sustainability goals. “Alu-Alu solutions complement the changing preferences of not just brands but end consumers as well. Eco-friendly and sustainable packaging which keeps contents safe is the need of the hour,” he explains.
While co-existing with traditional packaging, sustainability will not take a back seat in pharma packaging, says Ray, “It is one sector that is evolving at an accelerated pace. However, the motive has been defined differently from time to time — from containment and protection to branding and to user-friendliness.”
Covid-19 impact & trends
“Since packaging is an essential element of food and pharma products, we were able to continue our operations during the Covid-19 lockdown to meet packaging requirements coming from the pharmaceutical and FMCG customers. We could ensure no shortage of materials in these tough times despite initial bottlenecks on the logistics front,” Ray explains.
During the pandemic, increasing demand for packaging with antiviral and antibacterial properties was observed. “At UFlex, we believe in serving our customers with customized solutions that complement the needs of the packed content – this requires an incessant focus on innovation and investment in R&D.”
Pharmaceutical packaging is dynamic for multiple reasons, such as businesses’ sustainability goals, innovation, informative packaging, and the compulsion to develop anti-counterfeiting solutions to tackle the fake pharma market. Ray believes that we will witness many pharmaceutical packaging trends in times to come – digitization, serialization and traceability, sustainability, patient connect, and automation and innovations in packaging machinery! “It is also interesting to note that nobody had ever thought that single-use plastic would be used to pack chemical compounds to treat Covid-19 patients in a pandemic,” he says.