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The Impact of COVID-19 on Pharmaceutical Packaging

 
 

Date: October 19, 2021 | Category: Quality | Author: Seth Richtsmeier


For better or for worse, COVID-19 has impacted virtually every industry, and for a wide range of reasons. For some, like online retail and remote work solutions, a change in consumer habits has driven unprecedented demand and exponential growth. For others, like travel and leisure, health and safety concerns have shuttered businesses and brought operations to a halt.

The increase in online shopping over the last year and a half has led to higher demands for packaging manufacturers to ship products, food, and other goods to consumers. This includes pharmaceutical packaging companies who have seen a substantial increase in demand. Global civilians are navigating the new normal and opting for at-home deliveries of prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

At best, the impact of COVID-19 on the pharmaceutical packaging industry has been a mixed bag. Spikes in demand for medication and vaccine distribution have been a driving force for packaging throughout the pandemic. However, supply chain disruptions and growing health and safety concerns have resulted in unprecedented obstacles for pharmaceutical packaging businesses.


Here are four ways the COVID-19 pandemic has made an impact on the pharmaceutical packaging industry:

  1. Illustration of a delivery guy delivering productsIncrease in demand

    Public stay-at-home orders and CDC recommendations to limit contacts have led to a high demand for at-home deliveries of health care products like pharmaceuticals. This has resulted in a greater need for pharmaceutical packaging as people around the world navigate the ongoing pandemic.

    Demand for pharmaceutical packaging has increased in the following ways:
    • Prescription and non-prescription pharmaceuticals
      The demand for pharmaceuticals has skyrocketed throughout the global pandemic. In fact, the industry saw pharmaceutical spending increase by an astonishing $88 billion globally.
      However, a closer look at purchasing patterns has revealed this spending growth was not solely due to prescription drugs or therapies to treat coronavirus symptoms. In many instances, patients were advised by healthcare providers to stockpile therapies to combat any supply chain shortages caused by the pandemic. Over-the-counter purchases also increased by 14.3% for calming, sleeping, and mood drugs.
    • At-home deliveries
      The “where” and “how” we purchase prescription and non-prescription pharmaceuticals has also shifted. Traditionally, the distribution of behind-the-counter pharmaceuticals and prescription drugs has been handled by drug store pharmacists. However, with the threat of the pandemic still lingering, eCommerce has expanded into new industries as the demand for at-home pharmaceutical deliveries rises.

  2. Illustration of a vaccineDistribution of vaccines

    COVID-19 vaccination efforts put a major strain on pharmaceutical packaging firms to quickly supply the packaging required to facilitate an accelerated time to market. A couple factors play heavily into the pharmaceutical packaging of emerging vaccines.

    These include:
    • Storage requirements
      MRNA vaccine storage requirements have been problematic (to say the least) for the pharmaceutical packaging industry. The requirement to store vaccines at a frosty -70 degrees Celsius can cause glass vials to break, destroying valuable vaccines sought after world-wide.
      To address these challenges, SiO2 Material Science created a unique vial made from plastic polymer, with a nanolayer of glass on the inside. The special compound helps to address the shortage of glass, producing a hybrid vial able to withstand the vaccines rigid storage requirements.
    • Multi- and single-dose vials
      As federal regulators consider the recommendations and rollout of a COVID booster shot, Pfizer looks to modify their packaging options to increase accessibility and decrease wasted doses.
      A CDC spokesperson confirmed more than 14.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been wasted thus far during global vaccine rollouts. This largely stems from deliveries of multi-dose vials and strict storage requirements that limits where and for how long these vials can be kept. By offering smaller packaging options, the pharmaceutical giant can cater to smaller facilities in rural areas to store greater quantities of the vaccine without wasting doses.

  3. Illustration of multiple vaccineSupply shortages

    Although the demand for pharmaceuticals has remained high, delivering on pharmaceutical packaging has been hit hard by supply shortages. Most vaccines require two doses to fully inoculate an individual, which effectively means doubling the number of vials required to assist in vaccine distribution efforts.
    • Vaccine vials
      Developing vaccines posed another unprecedented challenge for glass vial makers. While the race was on to develop a safe and effective vaccine to target COVID-19, few recognized the supply challenges that threatened its distribution.
      An estimated 15.6 billion glass vials were needed to vaccinate the world’s population. This sudden surge in demand along with the high cost of vial production equipment has made it hard for pharmaceutical packaging companies to produce enough vials to fill orders.
    • National lockdowns and border closures
      The pandemic has also introduced unprecedented supply chain roadblocks, which makes receiving and managing inventory flow a challenge. National lockdowns and border closures have slowed and even halted the flow of materials required for manufacturing. This forces many organizations to re-evaluate their supply chain strategies and focus on agility, efficiency, and resiliency.

  4. Illustration of pharmaceutical packaging Changing packaging design

    High global infection rates have been a leading factor in encouraging the packaging industry to reassess strategies and prioritize clean and safe packaging to curb the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases. Pharmaceutical packaging firms now focus on package materials and tamper-proof packaging to promote health and safety throughout the remainder of the pandemic and beyond.
    • Package materials
      A study from the National Institute of Health, CDC, UCLA, and Princeton University found traces of SARS-CoV-2 was detectable for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. To protect consumers, new designs must incorporate the right materials to limit the virus’s survival rate on package surfaces.
    • Tamper-proof packaging
      Adding third-party delivery services to the distribution of pharmaceuticals leads to great concern over product contamination during the delivery process. Not to mention, at-home deliveries can pose a serious threat if delivered to the wrong hands. Creating tamper-proof packaging adds the extra level of protection to ensure public safety is maintained throughout each delivery cycle.

Conclusion

As many industries continue to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding new ways to optimize business operations is becoming more important than ever. Pharmaceutical companies must leverage the tools available to them to solidify any existing processes and ensure that they’re operating as efficiently as possible in a changing landscape. To learn more about effectively managing your quality control process, visit globalvision.co/quality-inspection-system or request a demo with a product expert.

 


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