5 Types of Medication Packaging Systems and Their Main Uses

Pharmaceutical packaging is highly regulated, not just because the materials come into direct contact with medications and protect them against contamination but also because the packaging must offer a clear indication of how the drugs are used. Medication packaging varies depending on the product, but they must all comply with state and federal regulations. Read on to find out about five types of compliant medication packaging and their primary uses to determine which will be the best fit for a particular pharmaceutical drug.

medicine bottles:Photo by Haley Lawrence on Unsplash

1. Bottles

Bottles are one of the most common Medication Packaging Systems in North America. They can be used to hold tablets, capsules, and even liquids. Medication bottles designed to hold liquids are usually made out of glass, while those that hold solid units like tablets or capsules are made from plastic. Plastic prescription bottles come in a multitude of sizes and colors, the most common of which are light brown and orange. Both of these colors provide a higher level of ultraviolet light protection to prevent light damage to photosensitive medications without reducing visibility.

2. Blister Packs

medicine blister packs:Photo by Christine Sandu on Unsplash

Blister packs are used for solid unit doses. They're more common in Europe, but even in North America, around 20% of solid unit doses come in blister packs. This type of medication packaging is made from pre-formed plastic, foil, or paper and features cavities or pockets made of thermoformed plastic. They also have paperboard backings and lidded aluminum foil or plastic film seals that can be punctured to access the medications.

3. Ampoules

Ampoules are small vials used to package injectable liquid pharmaceuticals that are susceptible to contamination. Each ampoule is hermetically sealed to stop all airflow, usually by melting the top with an open flame. Healthcare providers can open the ampoules by snapping them off at the neck. Since the contents are typically susceptible to contamination, each ampoule contains just one dose. Ampoules were traditionally made out of glass, but plastic versions are now becoming more popular since they offer greater design flexibility and help to cut back on packaging costs.

4. Vials

Vials can be made from either glass or plastic, and they're one of the more versatile forms of medication packaging. They can hold solids, liquids, or powders. Vials are larger than ampoules and are designed to hold multiple doses. Glass vials can be closed with screw caps, plastic stoppers, corks, or a rubber stopper with a metal cap. Plastic vials usually feature hinge caps that snap closed when pressed. Some people confuse vials with test tubes, but there's at least one key difference. The bottoms of vials are flat, while those of test tubes are rounded.

5. Sachets

Sachets are sealed pouches usually made from plastic. They can be square or rectangular in shape and are usually used to hold powdered medications, though they can also be used to hold liquids. Single-use sachets are designed with perforations that make them easy to open by hand. Resealable versions are also available.

Final Thoughts

All of the packaging systems described above can be used to hold pharmaceutical drugs. To be in compliance with federal guidelines, each of them must also be affixed with a compliant label. These days, most pharmacies package medications on-site using automated systems to avoid human error and save the pharmacy personnel time.