The future in a box

From Braille to smart boxes that think by themselves. Innovative German brand August Faller is an expert on packaging for the pharma industry. Managing Director Christian Holmskov discusses the requirements that pharmaceutical companies have for their packaging – including the carton – both now and in the future.

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Braille – a timeless classic
– Braille is added to paperboard using the embossing process and must be a certain height before it is approved. The tricky thing is that you must ensure that the Braille height is still acceptable after the final production stage. You need a good technique and a high-quality paperboard to pull this off.

Prescription medicines gain shelf appeal
– On over-the-counter (OTC) products you see a lot of bling like hot foil and bold colours. Prescription medicines that a pharmacist just takes from the carousel are, of course, duller and more scientific looking. But in the States, some of them also do have more colourful packaging. We’re now seeing this American trend coming to the EU. When I started at August Faller five years ago, we mainly had four colour constructions. Now it’s six or more colours. Major pharmaceutical companies work worldwide and if they see something working in the States it often spreads.

The Internet of Things
– The Internet of Things is still in its early days but we’ve already developed samples of smart packages that “think for themselves”. For example, a box that can tell the patient when to take the next pill, when a non-transparent bottle of liquid is running dry, or when it’s time to go out and buy new medicine.

QR codes
– We also work a lot with QR codes, which are helpful for the user’s guide – the package insert. Instead of reprinting the insert in new versions, pharma companies can update it digitally and make it available online for easy consumer access via a smart phone app. In the future, we may not even have an insert any more. Instead, consumers will access the information online.

The future is personalised
– One mega-trend is that medicine will become more and more personalised. Hospitals will map and analyse your genes and produce medicine that is perfectly individualised for you.

Of course, since the batches will go from e.g. one million packages to, say, 20 packages, these personalised medicines will cost more but will also be far more precise and efficient. They will target the places where you – and only you – really need them. 

Preventing piracy

Piracy or counterfeit medicine can be prevented in many different ways depending on the local market needs.

Coin ink: For the Brazilian market, for instance, we apply coin ink on the board. This is a layer that can be scratched off so that pharmacies and end consumers can see the package is an original.

Tamper-evident seals: For other markets we use tamper-evident seals to show that a box has not been opened by a middleman.

Holograms: Another efficient method is holograms integrated in plastic labels. You won’t notice the hologram until you have already opened the box and you can’t close it again without destroying the hologram.

Serial numbers: The latest innovation is the serialisation of every single box. When a consumer gets the medicine at the pharmacy, the box is scanned and matched with numbers provided to the authorities. The industry has been working on this solution for the last four to five years to meet the EU’s Falsified Medicines Directive, a legal framework to improve the protection of public health.


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Charlotte Lagerwald
Iggesund Paperboard
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