Packaging Design


Packaging is a key part of the assembly of any product that is provided to a patient or a healthcare provider. Often in the manufacturing process much of the production emphasis is placed on the product contained within, yet product packaging performs many critical activities, including:

  • Supporting an ergonomic way of using the product
  • Protecting the product from the surrounding environment
  • Protecting the surrounding environment and people such as children from the product
  • Providing a platform to convey patient and product information

The commercial and regulatory landscape in healthcare is making packaging more complex in the following ways:

  • The increase in combination products and devices requiring specialist packaging
  • Increased regulation e.g. tamper evidence
  • The challenge of making packaging child resistant but also senior friendly and useable for those with impairments
  • Increased use of smart packaging, shared packs and unit dose packaging
  • More complex supply chains, shipping requirements and local climate effects
  • Sustainability and waste concerns
  • Cost pressures

It is therefore essential to have packaging systems for your products that are suitably qualified for the intended use. This requires capable packaging design resources leading complex multi-functional design projects involving key stakeholders across your extended organisation and into user-groups.

Comprehensive requirement specifications need to be developed and agreed to ensure the myriad of design parameters can be appropriately considered, resulting in packaging that offers the most appropriate outcomes to all parties involved.

Where to start

With any packaging design project, we would always recommend clearly defining your design criteria in a requirements specification. Clarify the commercial goals and product values, what are you trying to achieve with the product? How will it be used? Who will use it? What are the unique selling points? Understand the requirements of the packaging system, product dose forms, known material constraints, specific regulatory or quality requirements, storage and temperature restrictions, shipping requirements. Consider the user population and any specific requirements they may have. Assess company prerequisites - sustainability, supply chain constraints, cost of goods, branding.

The above is not exhaustive but shows there is a significant number of parameters to be considered to define your requirements. The more effectively this is undertaken, the more successful your packaging design will be.

What we've learned

Design with the patient or end user in mind

Healthcare products are used by people and the success of use of the product is impacted by the usability of the packaging. It is therefore critical to ensure that relevant user groups are taken into account in the design and testing of the packaging system. Some considerations include: how and where are they likely to use the product? Is it sufficiently portable? What restrictions or impairments might they have that will hamper their interactions? Is the product used in an emergency situation or where people may be unduly stressed? Does the packaging sufficiently differentiate the product from others? Is the product used in conjunction with other treatments and can the packaging design help with this added complexity?

Compliance and persistence with drug regimes is an issue with many chronic therapies and packaging has a role to play in not introducing complications that impede adherence. Moreover packaging ought to be designed to help patients successfully manage their treatments.

Design is a collaborative process involving many internal and external stakeholders

The process of designing your packaging impacts many functions across your extended organisation. All of these groups, whether they be internal functions or external suppliers, have needs and constraints that they would like to meet. In some cases these are contradictory.

Your packaging design process needs to ensure that, for each project, the correct groups of stakeholders are identified and engaged, their requirements are identified and assessed and that decision making is seen to be balanced and focused on the right outcomes for the patient, caregiver, funder and company. Failing to undertake sufficient engagement will only create problems later in the project and risk missing critical parameters that may make the concluding design unsuitable.