More Reasons for Blisters’ Rise

By Marie Redding

Blisters are attracting new users given barrier properties, as well as the ability to differentiate a product on shelves.
Although there has been recent buzz about patient compliance, blisters are rising in popularity for other reasons as well. Necessity is one, since certain drugs require the barrier protection a bottle may not be able to provide. Aesthetics is another—as some high-barrier films are being chosen for design or marketing purposes.

Barrier Benefits
Dirk Corsten, managing director, Uhlmann Packaging Systems, says there are a number of studies underway that are testing the environment’s effect on a drug’s active ingredients. “Some studies show a drug may become less effective within 90 days. This hasn’t been proven yet, but we’re seeing the first indications,” he says.

Ben Brower, vice president and sales director, Pharmaworks, has been seeing an increase in blister use, given barrier properties needed for the types of new drugs. “Many of the new high-end drugs that have launched recently, such as cancer drugs, would never survive in a bottle,” Brower says. “I’m also seeing many more companies use nitrogen purging along with a blister, because many new types of drugs can’t be too exposed to oxygen,” he adds.

Daniel Stagnaro, business manager, pharmaceutical films, Americas, at Klöckner Pentaplast, also feels the need for high-barrier protection is on the rise. “Many new drug compounds require greater protection from moisture and oxygen. And large tablet sizes, which allow patients to take fewer doses, often require deeper cavities—necessitating a high-barrier film,” he says.

Stagnaro brings up the fact that several years ago, stability testing standards for Southeast Asia revealed that drug products were failing in the region’s extremely hot and humid climate. “As a result, ICH established new packaging guidelines for the IV A and B countries,” Stagnaro explains. “For global pharma companies that distribute products worldwide, these more stringent testing conditions require higher barrier packaging film to meet the requirements,” he says.

Southeast Asian countries have also implemented more stringent requirements.

“We find that having an extensive range of high moisture and oxygen barrier films, such as our ACLAR, PVdC, and EVOH, helps the pharma companies tailor film barrier requirements to meet their specific needs,” says Stagnaro.

Douglas Voreis, vice president, Perlen Packaging, also points to the growing use of high-barrier films in other parts of the world. “Mexico has modified its pharmaceutical requirements to more closely mirror FDA requirements, so we are seeing more regulatory standardization throughout the Americas,” he says.

Voreis also notes a trend toward using the highest barrier films as extra insurance during new product launches, then switching to a lower barrier film later in a product’s lifecycle to cut costs, after stability tests. “Our customers don’t want to risk new product stability test failures due to inadequate barrier film selection. The regulatory environment continues to raise the bar and FDA carefully reviews all NDA and ANDA submissions,” Voreis explains.

In light of this trend, Perlen Packaging has two ultra-high barrier PVdC films— Tristar Ultra 120 and 180. “These relatively new PVdC-coated barrier films can be used as a cost-effective substitute for PCTFE laminate films and are gaining widespread market acceptance,” says Voreis.

Barrier coatings on this type of PVC film don’t require changing the general machine’s parameters, which is an advantage, according to Voreis. “Barrier films also don’t experience dimensional differences during the blister forming process, which reduces curling. And, they generally form at lower temperatures, which saves energy costs,” he explains.

A Blister’s Marketing Advantages
A blister pack can help differentiate a product on store shelves, giving a brand an edge over the competition—and this can be especially useful to increase sales of a generic OTC drug.

Ruspak (Lyons, NY) has been providing blisters to many customers in the herbal supplement industry—and many of these customers are choosing blisters purely for aesthetic reasons. Many of Ruspak’s customers are using a blister printed on both sides, as the entire package—eliminating the need for a carton,” according to Tim Brickle, president, Ruspak.

Ruspak has been supplying this type of blister for a couple of years now, but Tim says there is a marked increase in interested customers lately. The supplier worked for nearly 9 months to come up with the right combination of materials to create this type of blister, making sure it had the right sealing and adhesion properties.

“One of our customers first asked us to develop this type of blister, and other customers have been jumping on the idea ever since,” says Brickle.

Ruspak’s customers that have switched to this blister and eliminated cartons have all seen a decrease in costs,” says Brickle. “They’re saving money, and being a little ‘green’ by not using a carton,” he says.

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