Well-designed packaging improves patient and work safety
Poorly designed pharmaceutical packaging can be fatal to the patient. For the
elderly, people weakened by an illness, or those who take several medicines,
it is important that the packaging is designed in a way that makes it easy to
open, to administer the drug and to read the user instructions.
a project coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland,
‘Easy-to-use pharmaceutical packaging’ (HELP), was examined the usability of
package opening mechanisms, and developed solutions to support their
improvement in opening and readability of user instructions for packaging
Packaging design must be based on the product users and their needs. In a
worst case scenario, the patient or nurse selects the wrong drug, administers
the drug incorrectly, or cannot open the packaging.
packaging can't be opened and essential drugs aren't taken, the consequences
may be fatal. Creating functional packaging for pharmaceuticals is the sum of
many parts: one failed component, such as a seal being too strong, can ruin
the whole,” says Raija-Liisa Heiniö, project manager of the HELP project and
Senior Scientist at VTT.
Easier opening of pharmaceutical
packaging can be achieved through a simple opening mechanism, and being able
to get a good grip and to open with minimal force. These features are
especially important for the elderly and for people with rheumatism. According
to the study, the packaging solutions easiest to use were a plastic container
with lid and a blister pack among the studied packages.
graphical design improves safety
The title and strength
of a drug and its intended use is important information for the user; these
details must be displayed clearly. However, the printed text on packaging is
often too small for the user to read. Information critical to the user may be
lost amid lesser detail.
Graphical design is paramount
in the readability of packaging. Special attention must be paid to font type
and size, and to the contrast between text and background. For example, the
'Easy to read' test developed by VTT helps to identify problem areas in
packaging design and to develop clear and simple pharmaceutical packaging and
product data sheets that also enhance patient safety.
legislation must take better note of user needs
organisations participating in the Easy-to-use pharmaceutical packaging
project are hoping that the drafting of EU legislation can be developed to
take better account of user needs in regulations concerning markings on
packaging. New methods combined with user-oriented packaging design are a
major step towards user-friendlier and safer pharmaceutical packaging.
HELP project (the acronym is based on the project's Finnish title),
coordinated by VTT and funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and
Innovation Tekes, involved developing testing methods to facilitate packaging
design, and comparing different types of pharmaceutical packaging. The project
was implemented jointly by VTT, the Gerontology Research Centre of the
University of Jyväskylä, and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. The
students of the Institute of Design and Fine Arts at Lahti University of
Applied Sciences generated novel, easy-to-open design solutions for
pharmaceutical packaging. Other participants in the project included two
pharmaceutical companies, Santen Oy and Abbvie Oy, and the graphical industry
player Jaakkoo-Taara Oy. The specialist consultants for the project included
Pharma Industry Finland, the Finnish Rheumatism Association, and the
Association of Packaging Technology and Research.