What Are the Different Types of Pharmaceutical Packaging?

Pharmaceutical packaging refers to the combination of elements necessary to safeguard, maintain, protect, and ensure the consumer receives a safe, effective drug product. Pharmaceutical packaging ensures that you consume a safe and effective product at any time point before the expiration date of the drug product.

Apart from being used to store and protect drugs, pharmaceutical packaging is also useful for identifying, marketing, and promoting different brands. It also helps consumers to understand how the product works.

Pharmaceutical packaging solutions provide numerous specialized structures meant to suit the requirements of medical packaging and pharmaceutical products. This facilitates the effective supply and containment of medical supplies for storage and transport while making it easy to access by medical professionals and consumers alike. Pharmaceutical packaging solutions protect products optimally and ensure that pharmaceutical products are original.

Medical packaging is significant in several ways, but its primary function is to offer protection to the pharmaceutical products found within it. Such packaging is designed to meet the unique specifications and sterilization requirements of medical products. It also helps preserve their integrity as well as adhere to medication standards.

Pharmaceutical packaging follows strict regulations in every country or region. Medication compliance packaging aims to ensure the patient’s safety.

Apart from being used to protect drugs from contamination, pharmaceutical packaging also helps to ensure child safety. This is where child-resistant packaging for pharmaceuticals comes into play. This type of packaging comes in different forms to keep children safe.

Packaging for the pharmaceutical product falls under three categories including primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary drug packaging is the outer material surrounding a pharmaceutical product. It directly covers the product, keeping it intact.

Both secondary and tertiary packaging offers additional external protection. Let’s go detailly into the popular types of pharmaceutical packaging.

1. Vials

Vials are plastic or glass containers that are used to store solids, liquids, or powder. Generally, vials are larger than ampoules due to their wide surface area. Vials are different from test tubes. While test tubes have rounded bottoms, vials have flat bottoms.

Glass vials come in three options including screw, crimp, or lip closure. You can close screw vials with a screw dropper or cap, while crimp vials can be closed with a metal cap and a rubber stopper. You can use a plastic cork or stopper to close lip vials.

Plastic vials usually come with other closure systems, such as ‘hinge caps’ that immediately shut when pressed.

2. Ampoules

Ampoules are portable, sealed vials that contain liquid pharmaceuticals. Manufacturers use heat to melt the thin top to hermetically seal the package.

Ampoules are manufactured using glass or plastic and you can open them by snapping off the neck.

Glass ampoules are cost more than other types of drug packaging due to their injectable property that prevents the liquid drug from direct contact with air and other contaminants.

3. Blister Packs

Blister packs are pre-formed plastic, paper, or foil that contain solid unit doses of pharmaceuticals. They are more popular in Europe than in North America and they are used to pack solid unit doses.

Blister packs have a built-in pocket or cavity which is a primary component made from thermoformed plastic. Its lid is made of aluminum foil, and the back is made of paperboard or plastic film which can easily be punctured by hand.

4. Sterile Packaging

Sterile packaging consists of coextruded films so that drug products and medical devices remain safe.

The coextruded films are produced from HDPE and PP plastics. This ensures that the product as well as the safety and health of the customer are protected.

5. Sachet Packaging

Sachet packaging has a square or rectangle shape and it usually contains powder dosages and sometimes liquids.

They are produced from a unique type of plastic which can either be single-use or resealable sachets. Sachet packaging has some perforations which make it easy to open by hand.

6. Metals

Metals are the primary material to pack the dosage in gel forms. However, metals are not the best material for packaging pharmaceuticals because they are chemically reactive.

Therefore, manufacturers prefer tin-plated steel or tin because it has low reactivity in contrast to other metals.

7. Bottles

Bottles are amongst the most popular pharmaceutical packaging materials. They are mostly used for tablets, capsules, and liquid pharmaceuticals.

They are easy to label and identify. Furthermore, there are found in varying colors and shapes. The most popular color is light brown or orange because allows the penetration of light to make the content visible. Light brown or orange color also prevents ultraviolet light from damaging the potentially photosensitive contents.

8. Glass Bottles

Pharmaceutical bottles can either be produced from glass or plastic. Glass bottles are popular mediums for storing liquid drugs because of their great blocking properties.

Pharmaceutical glass bottles manufacturers prefer this material due to its chemically inert nature which promotes more effective protection.

Glass medicine bottles often come with child-resistant closures for security purposes. When it comes to visibility, amber glass bottles come into play because of their protective property.

It prevents the drug from UV rays, which usually destroys the product – the risk of it interacting with leachable substances is low. However, glass bottles are disadvantageous due to their fragile nature. Glass bottles can easily break during transportation if not handled properly.

9. Plastic Bottles

Plastic bottles are the opposite of glass bottles. Plastic bottles are less costly, lightweight, difficult to break, and flexible.

The flexible nature of plastic bottles makes it easier for manufacturers to produce them in different sizes and the form of capsules, tablets, or prescription bottles. Plastic bottles are also very visible.

One downside to plastic is that there is a high chance that the plastic materials will become reactive and influence the functionality of the medication.


Pharmaceutical products are chemicals that require extreme care and packaging. Therefore, companies need to follow the packaging regulations set by their countries. Also, manufacturers need to consider more environment-friendly drug packaging to promote climate change and reduce waste.

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