Tell Your Packaging Stories

As healthcare product packaging engineers, you�ve had a lot to consider this year. No doubt your to-do lists have included plans for bar coding, ensuring patient safety, and facing counterfeiting and diversion threats. All this, and you still have to help your company stay competitive.

It sounds nearly impossible, but you manage it. And now you should promote your contributions to your products. Packaging engineers are now being looked to for solutions to many of the challenges facing the healthcare industry. And industry is ready to hear your stories. 

One company that always has a packaging story to tell�and does an excellent job of telling it�is Dey LP. The firm introduced unit-dose respiratory product packaging in the late 1970s and was one of the first to implement blow-fill-seal packaging. These innovations have helped both respiratory therapists (RTs) and patients deliver inhalable solutions quickly and easily.

The firm�s latest advances are using color-coded foil pouches for housing five embossed vials instead of individually color-coded paper labels on the vials; encoding National Drug Codes on all pouches with Reduced Space Symbology (RSS); and introducing individually pouched and color-coded vials. 

�We kept the color coding of the pouches consistent with the colors of our original paper labeling, since users have come to associate particular colors with our products,� says Gary Michaud, Dey�s senior vice president of operations. While drug identification should be performed by reading the embossing on the vials, he says, color coding helps users easily identify drugs. 

For automatic identification, Dey chose RSS because it seems destined to become the standard in hospital product scanning, says Michaud. �Because of its small size, RSS seems to be the code of interest.� Dey didn�t need a small-sized code for its multiple-vial pouches. However, the firm wanted to begin using a symbology that others would be using in the future. A uniform coding convention will make it easier for hospitals to standardize their processes, he says. 

The small scale of RSS will prove useful for the firm�s individually pouched vials. Some of the firm�s drugs will be transitioned to the unit-dose format for hospital use. �Research we conducted in 2003 showed that singly pouched vials with bar codes would promote safety and reduce contamination,� says Raymond Joske, senior vice president of marketing and business development. 

Color coding and human-readable text printed on the single pouches will still be packaging staples, though. Michaud says that these will help RTs better identify vials. �They routinely carry several vials in their pockets. Without color coding and easy-to-read type, they are at the mercy of their eyesight when it comes to reading embossed vials that have been removed from multiple-vial pouches.� He adds that the high-quality preprinted pouch materials from Flexicon (Chicago) further help therapists locate the right products. �The clarity is exceptional, which is important for reading text on small pouches.�

Even though these packaging innovations can speak for themselves, Dey isn�t leaving the storytelling to them. The firm has produced a brochure on the RSS codes, titled, �At Dey, We Set the Bar.� 

�We are in a commodity market, so we are challenged to differentiate our products,� says Joske. �We must point out any differences.�

I encourage you to do the same. Share your success stories. Show the healthcare industry just how your packaging sets your products apart.

Daphne Allen


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