Cancer Drugs Need Safe and Easy-to-Use Packaging
Packaging could make cancer drug administration easier and safer, for both patients and practitioners, speakers at Pharmapack told an international audience in early February.
Joseph Gligorov, MD, of Service Oncologie Hôpital Tenon (Paris), urged the audience to consider drug packaging changes that could ease cancer treatment. While staggering numbers of people die from cancer—in 2000 alone, approximately 6.2 million people around the world—many cancers are being managed with long-term therapies, he said. “Cancer is becoming just one of many chronic diseases that older patients are dealing with,” he explained. Current cancer treatments often involve complex infusions. And although dosage forms are changing to tablets for many new drugs, these oral-drug regimens can still be complicated to manage. In addition, patients will be taking a number of drugs for a number of ailments—Gligorov pointed to an example of one patient managing cancer and hypertension and seeking to take both tablets at the same time.
Cancer patients may also be living in homes with children, so protecting children from potentially toxic products is a priority.
Site-specific forms of cancer treatments, such as those involving lung-delivery systems, may also be under development. Gligorov urged the audience to refocus the development of all drug administration devices on the patient. Patient perception of treatments and the need for safe and accurate dosing should be considered.
Efforts should be made to ease cancer screening and prevention, such as the use of testing methods to detect cancer cells in blood or other excretions. Gligorov felt that packaging could play a role in easing the use of such tests.
Marie Savet, a pharmacist with Hôpital Robert Debré (Paris), reiterated Gligorov’s call for patient-focused packaging, only she emphasized the needs of pediatric cancer patients. Accurate dosing is a particular challenge for pediatric patients, she conveyed. “There is the need to adapt doses to body area and tolerances,” she said, “in order to avoid overdoses and exposure, even with orally taken drugs.” She added later: “If you make a mistake in dosing, [you present] risks to the patient and public.”
Current regimens often involve crushing tablets, which presents handling risks, or opening bottles and tapping out doses, which can cause potentially toxic dust to appear. While prefilled syringes may ease dosing for some patients, it is often unclear to practitioners whether every patient should be given the syringe’s entire contents. And adapting doses of other injectable drugs can present other exposure risks, Savet reported.
“Aren’t there packaging solutions that enable patients and practitioners to be protected from cytotoxins while the right doses are administered safely?” she asked. For instance, when drawing “liquid from vials with an oral syringe,” she said that practitioners could utilize “vial closures that do not leak or allow gases to aerosolize.”
In addition, drug treatments should not be difficult to use at home. “We need primary packaging that can be used to make patients’ lives easier,” Savet implored. “The objective is to improve patient compliance.” Cocktails of drugs need to be tracked, for instance. She added that children often administer doses themselves, so family members are not exposed. And parents often fail to use gloves when preparing and administering doses.
Several Pharmapack exhibitors spoke at the conference, aiming to address such packaging needs. For instance, Sybille Esser, PhD, corporate marketing director for Vetter Pharma-Fertigung GmbH; Mike Schaefers, vice president marketing Europe for West Pharmaceuticals; and Freddy Zinger, president, Medimop Medica Projects, all spoke about cancer therapies and packaging innovations. Christer Andreasson, chairman and CEO, Safety Syringes Inc., and Jean-Paul Crepel, director of marketing for Plastef, spoke about needlestick risks and safety devices. Philippe Laurent, M.D., PhD, medical affairs for BD Medical—Pharmaceutical Systems, spoke about microinjection, and Ralf Künzi, business development manager, marketing and sales, for Ypsomed AG, spoke about self-injection and the use of pen-like systems.
Vincent Langlade, marketing director, pharmaceuticals, for SGD, said that hospitals “do want a wider range of doses. But it would be expensive to stock ready-to-infuse products in varying doses.” In addition, while liquid dosages are preferable, freeze-dried products are often more appropriate because of the sensitivity of protein and peptide-type molecules, he said. “Our studies show that one new molecule out of two will be a lyophilized drug,” Langlade explained. He reported that medical device manufacturers are working to ease drug reconstitution and delivery and protect healthcare personnel, with such products as Codan Cyto from Codan U.S. Corp. (Santa Ana, CA) and the Tevadaptor Vial Adaptor from Teva Pharmaceuticals Europe BV, among others.
During the first day’s reception, PMP News asked drug manufacturers in attendance how they would solve the packaging needs expressed by Gligorov and Savet. These professionals acknowledged their needs, but pointed out that no one would want to delay a potentially valuable and lifesaving cancer treatment in order to take the time often needed to introduce new packaging.
Pharmapack was held February 6–7 in Paris. For more information on the event, which has just been acquired by Canon Communications llc, please visit www.pharmapack.com.fr. (Editor’s note: Many Pharmapack speakers presented in French, so some quotations are based on translators’ interpretations.)