Trends in OTC pharma packaging

While physically over-the-counter (OTC) medicine packaging may mirror the prescription drug market, with continued strong demand for plastic primary pharmaceutical and blister packs, the underlying trends are being driven through packing innovations, competitive strategies and regulatory demands.

In 2016, the US alone reported sales of $45.8bn[1] for non-prescription drugs, including $9.1bn of cough, cold, allergy and sinus medications and $4.8bn of pain relievers. And with the market growing at a CAGR of over 6% globally from now until 2020, there is a huge opportunity for manufacturing and packaging firms to capitalise.

Changing market dynamics

OTC makers and the services which support them are also mimicking the prescription drug industry, affected by many of the same regulatory challenges and accessibility hurdles: growing healthcare costs, ageing populations and demand for more affordable healthcare services. But continued M&A activity is also affecting the OTC space.

A number of mega-mergers have consolidated the consumer healthcare industry over the past few years. Bayer bought Merck & Co.’s OTC business – including the billion dollar Clarityn brand – in 2014 for $14.2bn, and the following year GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis formed a consumer healthcare joint venture through an asset swap deal.

Though the OTC space has been relatively subdued since, disappointing financial figures among some of the big players in 2017 has awoken M&A speculation and the industry looks poised for another reshuffle. Both Pfizer and Merck KGaA could soon divest their consumer healthcare businesses, while Novartis may sell its stake in its joint venture to GSK. Once the growth opportunities from countries such as China are factored in, 2018 is shaping up to be a dynamic and potentially lucrative year for the OTC industry.

Innovations in packaging

There is increasing focus on patient compliance and safety, especially for OTCs as they do not come with the regime guidance of a health professional. Convenient packaging systems to administer OTCs is also being looked at as a differentiator – Reckitt Benckiser’s introduction of tube packaging for its Strepsils throat relief lozenges alongside traditional blister-packs being an example.

Sustainability is also a driver. Consumers want reduced waste while manufacturers want to improve environmental footprints and lower supply chain costs. Keystone Folding Box, for example, recently redesigned its child-resistant blister-packs for OTCs using 100% recyclable paperboard and no additional plastic. And a Sanofi Pasteur and Campak collaboration has reduced packaging volume by 50% and eliminated the need for PVC blisters in its product ‘Compact Box.’ The venture also claims to have a 30% improvement in distribution costs.

The 2017 Pharmapack awards showcased some of these innovations in both primary and secondary packaging design and 2018’s award ceremony will highlight further advances being developed by the industry.

Read more on source: pharmapackeurope

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