Carton and label solutions aim for consumer convenience
and address efficiencies in the pharmacy.
Labeling mandates that require more real estate, fierce competition for shoppers’ attention, and pharmacies’ preferences for efficient delivery of prescription information are among the factors that influence choices in cartoning and labeling.
Label content and packaging is likely to undergo further changes as FDA and industry evaluate packaging’s effectiveness in engaging patients and conveying information critical to their health.
An FDA workshop earlier this year on the quality of drug information is followed by an agency public workshop June 24–25 on “Developing Guidance on Naming, Labeling, and Packaging Practices to Reduce Medication Errors.” Along with drug naming practices, panels are slated to consider the design of drug labels and product packaging.
Current labeling mandates that require more information in larger font sizes have driven increased interest in extended-content labels (ECLs).
In its redesign of packaging for Bayer Aspirin and Aleve, Bayer Healthcare adopted an ECL in eliminating the carton. Bayer wants the bottles to stand out among cartoned competitors and allow shoppers to easily inspect and touch the new bottle design.
Cartons are favored for allowing a better presentation of the literature, when there are huge copy requirements, or small bottles can’t accommodate tightly folded multipanel constructions. Cartons with preattached inserts offer consumer and pharmacist convenience, reduce SKUs in carton packaging, and preserve the bill-boarding space often favored by marketing.
Some converters see momentum growing for use of ECLs.
“As print content requirements are increasing, the folding carton market is under pressure. ECLs are a huge and growing segment,” says Narendra Srivatsa, business development manager, Cortegra (Fairfield, NJ).
“Customers are looking for a multi-layered label for conveying product usage and warning information in trade and clinical trial packaging,” Srivatsa says.
“The focus in packaging is moving toward the patient and how the package is used,” says Srivatsa.
KEEPING LABELING AT HAND
“The ECL stays with the bottle ensuring the patient will have ready access to the information. We offer resealable labels in all of our ECLs formats so they are conveniently opened and resealed. In addition, ECLs enable SKUrationalization. They help reduce costs in the supply chain because it makes the business process so much more simpler,” he adds.
Applied to unit-of-use or bulk bottles supplied to pharmacies, ECLs support the management of patient literature.
Platinum Press Inc. (Grand Prairie, TX) has developed the Combination Label, a combined label-and-outsert system, specifically for pharma applications. The label features a proprietary Tension-Release Technology that enables large inserts to be placed onto bottles, without compromising the application process, says Andrew Vale, senior VP, corporate strategy and development.
“The Combination Label is a robust ECL designed to prevent buckling or other application issues that can occur when large inserts housed in an ECL are machine-applied to small bottles,” Vale says.
Vale says that customers are applying booklets once considered too large for an ECL onto small dropper bottles and other unit-of-use bottles at operational line speed without any modification to their application equipment.
When cartons with enclosed leaflets or outserts glued to bottles are used, packagers have two or more printed components that need to go with the primary package, Vale notes.
“This requires additional steps for purchasing, inventory management, application, and reconciliation, all of which add costs,” Vale says.
The Combination Label has also been used to incorporate perforated Med Guides and physician inserts onto bulk and unit-of-use bottles, which avoids the need for pharmacists to manage leaflet pads.
“We have had a growing interest in the Combination Label from generic customers that are exploring ways to reduce packaging component and manufacturing costs, while more efficiently delivering label information to the end user,” Vale says.
3C Packaging (Clayton, NC) has launched carton with preattached insert production.
The converter deploys a Bobst Alpina folder/gluer from Bobst Group with an inserter from Longford Int. and an HHS vision and ejection system, for manufacturing cartons with inserts glued inside. The packaging is supplied to a major pharmaceutical customer, says Joe Elphick, president and CEO, 3C Packaging.
“We are scanning seven times on the glue machine and scanning before the carton is ejected to make sure we have the right insert in the right box in a precise location, plus or minus a millimeter,” Elphick says.
“Our customer has increased their production efficiency and line speeds by eliminating insert insertion jam ups.”
3C Packaging expanded its literature business this year through a strategic alliance with MeadWestvaco Corp. 3C Packaging will produce and market traditional package inserts, while MWV will continue focusing on its adherence packaging business and customized leaflets, the companies announced.
“We purchased their printed literature business, and will be supplying MWV’s customers with inserts, outserts, and topserts, which expands our business beyond folding cartons,” Elphick says.
With the MWV purchase, the converter added 40,000 sq. ft. at its Clayton facility for literature production, that today accounts for 30% of revenues.
Inserts are offset-printed with two Didde Web Presses from GSS Printing Equipment and a flexo printer from Mark Andy, Inc. Ten RTA systems from Vijuk Equipment Inc. (Elmhurst, IL) create the folded inserts and outserts, with another Vijuk unit on order for July delivery. “This is the largest Vijuk outsert system available, for folding up to 210 panels,” Elphick says.
Apex Graphics (Mississauga, ON) makes outserts, inserts, booklets, and multipanel labels designed for placement on bottles and the outside of a carton. “The labels we make are typically used for couponing or cross-promoting OTCs,” says Stephanie Magill, managing director.
“ECLs are attractive options for OTC drugs. They look good on the shelf, and are convenient for the consumer. But from a cost standpoint, they are too expensive for many applications.
“If you are eliminating a carton, you are defraying a lot of the cost of an ECL. But a glued outsert will be more cost effective than an ECL,” Magill says
“An advantage of the outsert is it is easy to apply; it can be placed on the top of the bottle where it doesn’t affect the secondary packaging.”
Apex Graphics has invested in new Vijuk folding machines to accommodate the larger inserts and outserts required to meet FDA’s labeling requirements.
The printer added a Vijuk FA53, 14-plate MV-05, two-knife unit. An older Vijuk folder was replaced with an FA43 12-plate MV-05. The FA53 handles a 20½ in. flat sheet, compared to 17 in. with the FA43.
“We have also purchased the Vijuk MV11 third knife that will allow us to make outserts with up to 210 panels. These investments increase our insert output and the sizes we can accommodate. You are picking up a huge amount of additional copy space with the FA553—a 20% larger starting size,” Magill says.
Converters will assist customers in finding the optimal solution for their application.
“The customer comes to us looking for the best packaging approach. We can embed the insert in a carton. For an ECL, the best design for a bottle, syringe, or vial, is driven by the number of pages and the curvature of the surface. This typically involves some degree of customization,” Srivatsa says.
Customers often need to reassess the box packaging. “Generally bottles are tightly oriented in the boxes. A same size corrugated carton might accommodate 20 bottles with ECLs, instead of 24 bottles. We have had customers redesign their boxes,” Srivatsa adds.
Cortegra offers booklet style ECLs with booklets or inserts attached to pressure-sensitive labels and Multi Plys in which label content is doubled by printing on the label’s under side.
Customers have used the Wrap-around label—that doubles copy space by wrapping around itself—for accommodating instructions in multiple languages.
“The Wrap-around is a cost-efficient solution for packaging when the increased content is not significant. For large content involving 12 to 14 languages, customers use our booklet-style labels,” Srivatsa says.
Says Magill: “Customers are open to just about anything you can present, if it can reduce their costs. They want to know how they can get their costs down, and how can they can keep reducing them.”