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Advancing healthcare policy

Drug packaging and patient safety

Drug packaging and patient safety: In brief

  A drug's packaging is an important component of its harm-benefit balance. High-quality packaging increases the chances that a drug will be used correctly and helps prevent medication errors.

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Drug packaging plays an important role in medication safety and in informing patients and healthcare professionals about treatments.

For over 30 years, Prescrire has been analysing every aspect of the packaging of the drugs evaluated in its “New Products” section (systematic analysis of over 5000 pharmaceutical products).

Encouraging pharmaceutical companies and drug regulatory agencies to improve packaging
Every year, Prescrire publishes its annual drug packaging review, based on an analysis by its specialised team, the Prescrire Packaging Working Group.

The recurrent finding is that well-designed packaging is too rare. Yet the improvements required are easily achieved: ensuring that the INN is clearly visible on the labelling; adding child safety features; prohibiting “umbrella” brands, which cause patients to confuse products that contain very different active ingredients; etc.

To increase agencies' awareness of the importance of regulating drug packaging, focusing on quality and on preventing harms, Prescrire regularly contributes to public consultations and warns health authorities about dangerous packaging.

And to make pharmaceutical companies aware of the benefits of improving the design of drug packaging, every year Prescrire also publishes its Packaging Awards. Prescrire honours pharmaceutical companies with a Packaging Award, or on the contrary hands out “yellow cards” or  “red cards”, based on the observations made in its packaging analyses.

Helping to improve patient safety, also with the IMSN
Prescrire's Preventing the Preventable Programme has been an active member of the International Medication Safety Network (IMSN) since the inception of the network in 2006. The network includes the world's major medication error prevention programmes and its aim is to improve patient safety.

©Prescrire November 2014