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Fancy Pharmacy Packs Will Pay Dividends

My recent experience with a prescription refill blew me away. And now I’m going to expect all packs to live up to this high standard.

Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor

May 9, 2024

7 Slides

At a Glance

  • More pharmacies are seeing the value in dispensing prepacked drugs.
  • Branded Rx packaging exudes confidence. Say buh-bye to the outdated amber vial.
  • Figure out how to cater to your patients’ personal packaging preferences.

Remember when Target came out with its ClearRx pharmacy bottle in 2005? It wowed pharmacy customers with its simplistic, yet informative, easy-to-read label and color-coded rings.

Then Target sold its in-store pharmacies to CVS in 2016, and CVS did away with the ClearRx packaging. Customers were furious.

I don’t blame them. I used to have low expectations for my prescription (Rx) packages. Amber vial with annoying push-and-turn cap. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Until something happened recently …

I had my thyroid removed about a year ago. My doctor put me on a high dose of “pretend” hormone (Levothyroxine 150 micrograms/mcg, to be exact) for a full year to make sure any missed thyroid cells wouldn’t feel the need to activate and possibly start growing something they shouldn’t. You know, like cancer.

Hey, I was all for preventing that! But the real payback was when my doc lowered the dosage to 137 mcg — partly because I no longer feel like I’m wading through neck-high water all-day, every day.

But mostly because the packaging is so much better than before!

Instead of a boring amber vial, the pharmacist gave me a Mylan-branded bottle, beautifully colored, safety sealed, and complete with personalized label.

[Launch the slideshow to see the package features and how I feel about them.]

The pre- vs. on-demand pack decision.

I remember back in the day (decades ago) when pharmacies started to carry prepacked unit-dose blister packs, like the Zithromax Z-Pak for antibiotics. What an improvement at several stages in the supply chain. Pharmacies reduced how long it took them to fill the prescriptions and the drug’s manufacturer, Pfizer in this case, optimized its packaging operation by running high volumes.

But patients were the true winner. They were provided safe medicine that had maintained its best efficacy, and they got it fast, too. Instead of having to find/count/fill/label, with errors possible at each stage, pharmacists just had to find and label. The error-prone counting was eliminated. Prescription filling was optimized.

Of course, not all medicines could be prepacked like this. Prepacked blisters worked for drugs and regimens that had enough sales volume to make the extra time and cost by the manufacturer something a busy pharmacy would see value in and pay for.

“… more pharmacies are seeing the value in prepacked prescriptions.”

But more pharmacies are seeing the value in prepacked prescriptions. The growth of the pharmacy repacking business is soaring for blisters, bottles, pouches, and liquid medicine packages. According to Research & Markets, the pharmacy repackaging systems market was estimated at $100.48 billion in 2024, and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.1% to reach $155.75 billion by 2030.

A study done back in 2000 on “Time and Cost Analysis of Repacking Medications in Unit-of-Use Containers” concluded even then that “Repacking drugs in unit-of-use containers is potentially an inexpensive method to increase usable time in the pharmacy that does not require an increase in personnel or the purchase of additional technology at the store level.”

Fast-forward to another more-recent study from 2022 that found a similar opinion for unit-dose packed liquid oral drugs: “… the cost associated with purchasing unit dose liquids from manufacturers, third party repackagers, and in-house repackaging are similar. Therefore, utilizing a specific system is unlikely to make a significant impact on the overall pharmaceutical budget for a large hospital or health system.”

Yes, buying drugs in bulk is usually less expensive per pill or per dose. But the time, and associated costs, for a pharmacist to fill a prescription is also a consideration.

Personalized packaging preferences matter.

The instant I saw my new blue bottle, I felt reassured. I felt that, no matter how scary health issues can be sometimes, I’ve got a confident partner in the fight; that I’ll be okay.

Do you know how powerful this emotion is? Especially in the healthcare market where a patient’s mental state can either help or hurt recovery and outcome?

My pharmacy has already asked me if I want to continue getting this package. What do you think I told them?

No surprise: My preference for the branded package has been digitally noted in my pharmacy file.

If branded pharmacy packs aren’t an initiative within your company yet, they should be. This is not the future; it’s now. Don’t lose profitable sales — or customers’ confidence — because of bad packaging.

[Launch the slideshow to see the package features and how I feel about them.]

About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

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