Redesign with the User in Mind

From a cost and time standpoint, coming up with one packaging design and staying with it over a product's entire life cycle is ideal. Healthcare product manufacturers could conceivably minimize the time and costs spent on redesign and revalidation as well as finalize equipment and material choices. However, package styles and patient tastes evolve, so the package that met patient requirements years ago probably wouldn't compete well with those of today's new products.

Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical (Raritan, NJ) aptly recognized this, and in 1999 the drug manufacturer redesigned its Ortho Dialpak tablet dispenser for its oral contraceptives Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Ortho-Cyclen. The original Ortho Dialpak tablet dispenser was introduced in 1963 for the firm's Ortho-Novum products. The portable case enabled women to follow their birth control regimens easily. The dispenser was updated in 1978.

After years of market success, Ortho-McNeil decided that it was time to ensure that its birth control packaging was still meeting consumer needs. "We wanted to know, 'What can we do better?' " says Theresa Tamboer, senior communications specialist for Ortho-McNeil. "So we went to women and healthcare professionals and asked them how we could improve the package." After years of research, the firm determined consumers wanted a package that was functional, easy to use, discreet, and environmentally friendly.

With these goals in mind, Larry Lambelet, Ortho-McNeil's principal engineer—technical development, partnered with Martha Davis, an industrial design artist with Razorfish Design (New York City), to redesign Dialpak. "We first looked at changing the packaging altogether, but women were comfortable with Dialpak's circular form. So we made the package smaller and smoother to the touch and we worked to combine function with aesthetics," says Tamboer.

Some of the Dialpak III's new features include a one-way dial mechanism marked with days of the week so that the package is always set to dial to the next dose; a pill numbering system so that consumers will always know where they are in their cycle; and an any-day start so users can begin a regimen on any day of the week. The package is also refillable, allowing women to reuse it for a year or more, and it resembles a cosmetic case, enabling women to carry it discreetly.

Jurors for the third annual Medical Design Excellence Awards, sponsored by Canon Communications LLC, recognized the Dialpak III precisely for these features and named it as a finalist in the competition. According to Canon, the new lighter-weight package represents a cost savings over previous packages, and the reusable compact has the potential to reduce material use by more than 1,000,000 lb per year. (For information about the awards, see the news story on page 8.)

Ortho-McNeil, however, didn't stop at the Dialpak III. "The initial birth control prescription comes with a pink case, but it was difficult to decide on just one color for the Dialpak III," says Tamboer. Influenced by the current trend toward customization for such consumer products as cell phones and personal computers, Ortho-McNeil came up with the idea to offer customized cases in sophisticated designs. "During our research, we discovered that there are regional differences in the design preferences of the cases. For instance, women in the Midwest and South prefer the floral design." Rather than determine what design would meet all regional tastes, the firm designed six different cases, each intended to resemble a cosmetic case. Dialpak III's new look is called the Personal Pak.

When it comes to improving patient compliance with drug regimens, it seems like the last package that needs redesigning is a birth control blister package, which already fosters one of the highest drug regimen compliance rates. One may argue that drug companies should focus their package redesign efforts on drugs that have lower compliance rates.

However, Ortho-McNeil's redesign efforts are notable for an entirely different reason. With Ortho Tri-Cyclen being the number one prescribed birth control pill, the firm was already a market leader and really had no financial reason to redesign its packaging. But, to maintain that market position, it realized that consumer needs, not doctor, pharmacist, insurance company, or manufacturing needs alone, determine a drug company's success. To meet those needs, Ortho-McNeil did what successful retail product manufacturers do—it sought out its consumers and listened to them.

Daphne Allen, Editor

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