Top Tips: Improving patient compliance via Packaging and Labelling

Chanice Henry

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The packaging, labelling and artwork division of the pharma market faces pressure from a range of directions. Varying country requirements, refreshed regulations, demanding overheads and  the combat against inappropriate use of medicines by patients. 

Pharmaceuticals taken incorrectly are a public safety concern, leading to a significant level of fatalities each year.

To enhance patient compliance, many have noted that behavioral changes are necessary, not only regarding patients but doctors and pharmacists. One area of recent focus has been combatting the pre-emptive or cautionary admission of antibiotics.

Pharmaceutical packaging has a direct influence on patient compliance with medicinal therapy.

As explained by Tassilo Korab in a commentary article: “Drug packaging can either build barriers between the patient and the medicine, or can enhance compliance by incorporating features and functions that help patients follow the therapy plan.” [4]

After consulting the expertise of packaging specialist Karel van der Waarde Pharma IQ presents its top tips to reducing patient pharmaceutical misuse via packaging and labelling.

Enroll patients into the packaging design process

One prominent tactic to combat patient  inappropriate use is the consultation of public opinion on the development of packaging design.This should aim to consider how packaging can better enable patients to take medicines appropriately.

Karel van der Waarde explained: “You go to real patients and ask them, interview them and see how they work in real life with your packaging. [For example] see what problems elderly people have with opening of a cardboard box and look at how arthritic patients work [with] tablets.” 

This analysis may uncover intelligence which can optimise patient compliance. For example, providing discrete labelling to medicines which are therapeutics for conditions that can invite social stigma - such as HIV medicines. 

This level of user analysis is likely to require the input from all ends of the market: legal groups, the industry, patients, doctors and pharmacists. In this regard legislation may also require improvement or amendment to ensure that this can be done compliantly. 

Strike a balance between anti tamper and usability

In regards to the latest FMD EU regulation, Karel has seen some fully compliant packaging, however compliance has triggered some usability problems.

This comes with the robust transparent tape used to seal the box and the package leaflets also. These items cause usability issues with elderly or patients with arthritis or sight impairments who are unable to break and sometimes even see the tape.

Karel concludes that as well as remaining compliant in packaging, the pharmaceutical industry needs to conduct usability tests. 

Artwork inaccuracies are not an option

Due to their influence upon misuse by patients artwork errors cannot be afforded. Examples include:

- The complete omission of a vital piece of information from artwork

- The ambiguous presentation of information which can lead to miscomprehension.

- Incorrect symbols

- Technical errors – for instance serialisation code or barcode. [5]

Patients rely on the information provided on a product to instruct them in a manner which will lead to safe and effective use. Therefore any flout in accuracy could have fatal consequences. Also this could damage the wider confidence in the treatments themselves - which would be hard to replenish.

Their influence upon misuse by pharmacists

As physicians trusted with restoring patients to health, these professionals - who have hectic workloads - rely on the packaging and labelling of a product being fit for purpose. An error in regards to the information supplied on a package could result in a prescribed medicine having a negative influence on the patient. In addition to this, it would be a drain on resources for these physicians to dedicate time and money on rectifying or consciously avoiding issues created by packaging and labelling errors. [4]

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