Fitting Everything In

 

When someone mentions the association called The Healthcare Compliance Packaging Council (HCPC; Falls Church, VA), I bet the term

unit dose

automatically comes to mind. After all, its Web site is found at

www.unitdose.org

.

But during its annual symposium in May this year, where the group presented its 2001 Compliance Package of the Year awards, HCPC (thanks to its independent panel of judges) showed that a compliance package involves much more than a unit-dose format.

One of its winners, the carded blister package for Plan B (levonorgestrel), uses a four-panel, eight-sided card, in addition to a patient insert. An amazing feature about the card is that when it is fully opened, it measures more than a foot in length yet contains a mere two tablets. Distributor Women's Capital Corp. (Washington, DC) probably could have supplied the tablets in bulk to pharmacists and relied on them to explain and distribute instructions, warnings, etc. However, Sharon Camp, PhD, founder, president, and CEO of Women's Capital, knew immediately that Plan B needed specialized packaging.

Plan B is an emergency therapy that may prevent pregnancy by temporarily stopping the release of an egg from a woman's ovary, or it may prevent fertilization. It may also prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus. In order for Plan B to work, the first pill must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, and the other 12 hours later. Since levonorgestrel is not an abortion pill, meaning that it will not work for already-pregnant women, the clock starts ticking for this plan of action the moment a condom breaks.

Aware that women need such a regimen immediately, Camp wanted to lower the "barriers of access" to Plan B by devising a package that would make prescribers—whose advice may be sought over the phone or the Internet—comfortable prescribing it without seeing the patient. She also wanted a discreet package that would make women feel comfortable enough to keep Plan B on hand in case of emergencies.

To create a package that would speak for the product and the prescriber, Camp chose a style that would put compliance-enhancing instructions directly in each patient's hands. "Prescribers and clinicians need to be confident that women will use Plan B safely and effectively. So we needed to ensure that the instructions never get separated from the tablets," she explains.

Larry Blake, marketing manager for Sharp Corp., which helped Women's Capital design the package, says that they took a lot of the information from the patient insert and put it in plain language on the card itself. "We wanted to make the regimen as concise and clear as possible."

HCPC's other 2001 award winners, the SimpleJect Auto-Injector System by Amgen and Owen Mumford Ltd., and the Lipitor Start Right Kit by Pfizer and DPT Laboratories, also rely heavily on printed educational information. SimpleJect includes booklet instructions that ease self-injection, and Lipitor features regimen definitions, recommendations, and other elements to help patients start right on their cholesterol-lowering programs.

As one judge noted during the program, Plan B's packaging "says everything it needs to say; everything the patient needs to know is there." That comment applies equally to the Lipitor Start Right Kit and to SimpleJect. If only the same could be said about every prescription drug package.

Daphne Allen, Editor

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