The Evolution of Pharmaceutical Packaging Industry

The market for pharmaceutical packaging is constantly advancing and in the last few years it was valued at $98.58 billion in 2019. The market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5 per cent from 2020–2027, to reach a value of $170 billion by 2027. The emerging trend of globalization in the pharmaceutical industry, with an expanded competitive environment, is expected to increase the demand for pharmaceutical products thereby propelling the demand for pharmaceutical packaging over the next years. In addition, growing demand for generic drugs owing to their affordability coupled with new drug developments is further anticipated to boost the demand for pharmaceutical packaging.

Packaging technologies

Constant pharmaceutical innovations (such as prefilled syringes, blow fill seal vials, powder applications, and others) have a direct impact on the packaging.  The majority of medicines (51 percent) have traditionally been taken orally in form of tablets or capsules that are either packed in blister packs (very common in Europe and Asia) or fed into pharmaceutical plastic bottles (especially in the USA). Powders, pastilles, and liquids also form part of the intake of oral medicines. Nevertheless, other approaches are also being more commonly used for taking medicines. These include methods of parenteral or intravenous (29%), inhalation (17%), and transdermal (3%). Oral tablets themselves are now also available in a wide variety of forms and sizes. These changes have had a major impact on the packaging industry and there is a growing need for tailor-made, individual packaging solutions to ensure medicines are effective.

Due to degradation from environmental factors such as light and humidity, the direct link between packaging and the efficacy of a remedy is often established. Oral medication packaging is typically consistent with easy dispensing criteria, child resistance to senior-friendliness, and also the brand factor that the packets must also be recognizable, usable and most often hermetically sealed. Existing and emerging pharmaceutical packaging technologies should also be aimed at addressing the environmental factors such as recyclability and consumer choice based on their knowledge of sustainability. Some innovations, however, offer added benefits in one area but may not comply with expected standards governing another. Blister bags, for example, offer comfort and guarantee hygiene. They are ideal for our fast-paced lifestyles and the need to take medication on the go, and their use has been greatly increased as a result. As a matter of fact, blister packaging has produced the highest growth worldwide of all pharmaceutical packaging products, with demand increasing by 6.2 per cent annually to over $20 billion in 2019.

The booming market

Pre-fillable syringes and parenteral vials are expected to produce the fastest growth in the pharmaceutical packaging market, which will continue to expand as advances in biotechnology result in the introduction of new therapies that need to be injected. The growing demand for biologics in the global pharmaceutical packaging industry would fuel demand for innovative drug packaging solutions. Nanotechnology, the science of very small materials, is capable of having a significant effect on pharmaceutical packaging and will allow it to deliver revolutionary and new-generation packaging solutions. Increasing demand for drug delivery devices and blister packaging will also boost pharmaceutical packaging sector growth. In 2019, the global demand for nano-enabled blister packaging was $4.5 billion, which is projected to grow to $9.10 billion by 2027.

Today & Tomorrow

Increasing reliance on pharmaceutical product marketing will become much more relevant in the future and will push factors such as the need for versatility in terms of different types and sizes of packages. As pharmaceutical manufacturers face elevated cost pressures across the entire manufacturing and packaging cycle, packaging machines must become more efficient and user-friendly, offering flexibility, ease of use, robustness, intelligence and interference protection. Dealing with all things at once is a challenge.

U.S. is the world’s largest market for pharmaceuticals. In 2019 the country held the largest share of the pharmaceutical packaging market in North America. Additionally, the involvement of many major pharmaceutical manufacturers is believed to impact the growth positively. The segment of plastics & polymers materials makes up the largest share of revenues on the U.S. market and the preponderance over the projected period is expected to continue. It is estimated that APAC is the fastest growing pharmaceutical packaging market. Increasing government initiatives in the emerging pharmaceutical market, an increase in contract manufacturing activities, an increase in the aging population, and increased health care expenditure drive the APAC market. China and India are important markets in the region. In other emerging economies such as Brazil and Russia, demand for pharmaceutical packaging has also significantly increased.

In addition, COVID-19 impact will help raise expectations as it will lead to increased demand for packaging machinery. The top priorities in the coming years for the global packaging industry are ‘improving operating quality,’ ‘new products and services,’ and ‘expanding on the existing market.’