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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Green Manufacturing > Product Development > Manufacturing Design & Engineering for Sustainable Business

Packaging Can Be Critical To Product Function

Packaging is integral to product development, especially in the health field

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Packaging Design as Part of Product Design

Packaging is a marketing tool -- true. But it is often also an integral part of product functionality and safety. Medical products, in particular depend on packaging to protect the integrity of the product and prevent application problems.

  • Accurate and easy to follow instructions are vital.

  • Differentiation by dosage are vital.

  • Time stamps and sourcing data are vital.

  • Prevention of contamination is vital.
Medical packaging is not only an important and detailed part of consumer medications, but also for professionals such as hospital and doctor office staff.

"Healthcare is just beginning to realize how big a problem it has with patient safety," said Albert Wu, professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "Errors are disturbingly common. The healthcare system has to take a step back and invest more in research and improving patient safety. Until it does, these kinds of incidents will keep happening."

Serious injuries associated with medication errors reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration increased from about 35,000 in 1998 to nearly 90,000 in 2005, according to a report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Of those cases, more than 5,000 deaths were tallied in 1998, but in 2005 more than 15,000 deaths were reported.

A problem arose with overdosing infants with blood thinners in hospital settings because the packaging of the 10,000-unit dose of the medication looks very similar to that of the 10-unit dose.

Repackaging Effort

In the wake of deaths due to these overdoses, a national pharmaceutical company began repackaging the product involved to make the different doses more distinct, including adding a large "red alert" symbol on the more concentrated dose.

However, the supply of the drug had made its way into the supply channel and getting the revised packaging out into the field was difficult if not impossible to remediate the entire problem.

Packaging Design for Safety

Packaging is an integral part of the product design process. If it is an afterthought, critical functionality can be missed. Design elements such as container and package size, color coding, instructions, ease of time-stamping, tamper-proofing, and trackability in the supply chain must be planned alongside the development of the product being delivered.

Graphic designers are seldom part of a product development team, but with sustainable business practices, this multidisciplinary approach can be part of a company's commitment to transparency, quality and greening the packaging element of the solution that is delivered.

Medical products in particular will benefit from early participation by package designers. But ALL packaged products can benefit from thinking about how "everything is connected" and how packaging is part of the waste stream, the safety regimen as well as their marketing and customer support service.

Read the full story about newborn blood thinner errors in the article, "Hospital drug errors far from uncommon" in the LA TIMES

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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