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Medicinal products packaging: too often overlooked

The packaging of medicinal products plays an important part in their correct use. Too often it is neglected by pharmaceutical companies and regulatory bodies, but healthcare professionals need to be aware of the issue and take action.

The packaging – wrapping, blister packs, package leaflet, safety caps etc. – is a key factor in a drug’s harm-benefit balance. It is crucial to the product’s correct use and in avoiding administration errors. Healthcare professionals can play an important part by opting for medicinal products with the best-designed packaging.

Well-designed packaging clearly identifies the drug and the dosage, and averts confusion between different drugs by the dispensing pharmacy or the user. A clear, precise dosing device allows the prescribed dose to be prepared and administered with accuracy, without endangering the patient. A safety cap ensures that medicine bottles are childproof; a safety syringe with a sheathed or retractable needle protects against accidental injection; and so on. A clearly written package leaflet including measures to be taken in the case of pregnancy, information on adverse effects etc., gives patients better protection against serious harms. The type should be legible and big enough to be read by patients who are visually impaired.

The pharmaceutical companies that design the packaging and the regulatory agencies that authorise the drugs must pay more attention to this factor which is so essential for the correct use of medicinal products and for patient safety.

©Prescrire 1 December 2012

"Think about drug packaging" Prescrire Int 2012; 21 (133): 284. (Pdf, free)

Download the full review.
Pdf, free

For more information:

Packaging of medicines
for paediatric use:
Prescrire's constructive
Prescrire Int 2012;
21 (131): 249-250.
Pdf, free

See also:

Prescrire's annual review
of drug packaging in 2011
(Annual Prescrire Awards)