Building a Line from One Show

For 20 years, Dura Pharmaceuticals (San Diego) has been developing, marketing, and manufacturing prescription pharmaceuticals for treating allergies, asthma, and related respiratory conditions. Its most recent product is called Spiros, a new pulmonary drug-delivery system consisting of a dry-powder inhaler. The system relies on a breath-activated switch to disperse and aerosolize powdered medication.

By introducing the Spiros technology, Dura wanted to position itself as a leading pulmonary drug-delivery company. The firm's senior project engineer, Bryan Glenn, realized that to do so, the company needed to begin manufacturing and packaging Spiros for commercial sale from its own production facility. But first, Glenn needed to outfit this facility with commercial-scale packaging equipment dedicated specifically to handling the new product.

Just like any company preparing for a new drug launch, Dura wanted to get to market as soon as possible, so Glenn sought to source all the equipment he would need to build the line at the Pack Expo International show held in November 1998. "I knew I could purchase individual components as well as meet with on-site engineers to discuss the adaptability of these components to customized applications," reports Glenn.

The first item on Glenn's shopping list was equipment to package a component of the Spiros inhaler known as a blisterdisk. A disposable disk of 16 powder-filled, moisture-proof foil blisters, the blisterdisk is inserted into the reusable Spiros inhaler. Glenn and Dura's mechanical engineer Todd Nelson developed 35- and 50-gauge foils specifically for a pouch to hold the blisterdisk. At the show, Glenn stopped by the Doboy (New Richmond, WI) booth and saw the Microtronic wrapper. Capable of producing 180 units per minute, the 22-ft-long wrapper features PLC-based machine control and full servo control to provide preprogrammed product setups and easy changeover for different product sizes. Glenn selected the wrapper to create a pouch to hold the blisterdisk.

Doboy's Microtronic wrapper creates a pouch for the Spiros inhaler.

Glenn and the Dura team also found another key piece of machinery at Pack Expo, a CP11.1 thermoformer from Klöckner Medipak (Clearwater, FL). He installed it upstream from the wrapper on the packaging line, where it thermoforms a specialized PVC reinforcement tray in which the blisterdisk is placed prior to foil-wrapping. This assembly is then packaged for commercial sale.

Glenn credits Pack Expo with helping him custom design the commercial packaging line for Spiros. "Our packaging line was still in the planning stages, so it was a great help to be able to discuss specifications with a variety of expert technicians all in a very concentrated period of time," he says. Having leading packaging equipment suppliers under one roof made his job "immeasurably easier," he adds.

Glenn is looking forward to attending the next Pack Expo International, which will take place at Chicago's McCormick Place November 5–9. Joining more than 75,000 other attendees, Glenn will shop for additional system components and new ideas for the Spiros packaging line.

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