Innovation and Design Process for Pharmaceutical Packaging

by Alex Cosper on January 31, 2022

One of the major industries facing enormous packaging design challenges is pharma. A crucial challenge is to craft more innovative and inclusive features without taking away from informative labeling. Various stakeholders have a wide range of demands that are difficult for packaging designers to balance with utility and aesthetics. Here's a look at what pharmaceutical companies need to consider to improve packaging.

Injecting Inclusivity and Innovation into Packaging

Inclusive packaging design is the process of making sure that different segments of society are included in the thinking behind packaging. A pharma product, for example, might be needed by a wide range of people who come from different backgrounds. Most consumers avoid taking the time to understand fine print or the different types of chemicals in drugs. On the other hand, some people do care about these factors and shouldn't feel they're bombarded with just scientific jargon.

Ignoring the concerns of patients who want to be better informed about medicine is one of several issues pharma stakeholders need to understand. Many missed opportunities exist due to confusion over packaging - and not just labeling. When a package is extremely difficult to open that it requires a special tool, consumers may lose interest in the product.

The lack of focus on inclusivity to overcome limitations of accessibility can hold back not just pharma sales, but medical developments. Not everyone has the physical strength or tools to twist open a tight cap on a bottle. Seniors may not have access to a caretaker who can open the container for them. Consequently, the drug might be discarded, which can negatively impact treatment.

The key to more effective adoption of inclusive design in pharma packaging is to focus on more equitable, flexible and intuitive containers. Communication on the package should be more clear with the understanding that many seniors have sensory limitations. A subtle observation for package designers to take into account is that packages should be designed to open easily for both left-handed and right-handed individuals.

Meeting Stakeholder Demands

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported in 2016 that over half of all medicines are prescribed, dispensed or sold inappropriately. Consequently, overuse, underuse, and misuse of medicine create scarcity for those who really need it. Due to an aging population and expansive future population growth, people will increasingly need to pay closer attention to using drugs appropriately.

Stakeholders need to become more aware of how pharma packaging pain points reduce opportunities on multiple levels for pharma companies, doctors, and patients. Ultimately, plenty of empirical evidence points to the packaging being crucial to effective treatment.

The best way to get input from stakeholders on innovating pharma packaging is through interviews. Stakeholders want to invest in companies that hold patents that can contribute to cures or treatment of specific ailments. In order for their products to be successful, they need to understand the link between packaging and proper treatment. Some stakeholders resist innovation due to the costs of new technology or designs that cut into profit margins.

Understanding Pharma Consumers

Pharma consumers perceive packaging differently for prescription drugs than food items. While food packaging is viewed as important for protecting food, consumers view pharma packaging as something even more scientific with informative instructions. When it comes to medicine, patients commonly understand they must take the dosage as directed by their doctor and otherwise should be careful how they use the product.

Yet research has shown that consumers are often confused and uncertain about pharma drugs due to the packaging. When packaging fails to communicate effectively to patients, it may hurt the chances of a useful medicine gaining wide adoption. In that sense, effective pharma packaging can be a matter of life or death.

The industry's packaging designs are partly shaped by years of legislation that has set standards. It has usually been legislative or regulatory efforts that have driven innovation of pharma packaging in the past. When a drug company releases a new product, it's an opportunity to explore new ideas for packaging.


The pharmaceutical industry has made many ground-breaking achievements in medicine over the years, but still faces significant challenges with packaging design. When patients don't understand the package, it can mean not taking the medicine correctly. In the coming years pharma companies will need to rethink and refine packaging so that it's safer and more effective for the masses.



[1] Toward Inclusive Pharmaceutical Packaging (2018) ,  Giana Carli Lorenzini

Topics: Metal Packaging, Pharmaceutical

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