Medical packaging serves several important functions, but its primary role is to protect a packaged medical or pharmaceutical product. Because medical products can feature unique specifications and often require sterilization prior to packaging, medical packaging is designed to both uphold the highest medical standards and ergonomically protect the integrity of a product. As a result of the wide array of medical components, medical packaging ranges from pre-formed packages to customized packages for specialty parts. Variations in size, dimension, rigidity, breathability and sterility enable even the most delicate medical component to be shipped in an appropriately engineered package.
Types of Packages
Medical components are typically packaged in one of several structural configurations. Below is a description of some common types of medical packages.
Blister packaging: Often used to hold individual capsules within a larger carton, blister packaging protects a package’s contents from contamination. Depending on the nature of the film material used, blister packs can feature either a peelable layer or a push-through lidding as a way to remove the contents of a package.
Individual-wrap packages: This type of packaging is a good choice for single-use applications, such as syringes. Blister packs are often used for extra support.
Multi-compartmental trays: Typically manufactured from more rigid material, multi-compartmental trays are used to package sutures, implants and other sensitive surgical items.
Water-soluable packaging: This packaging variant dissolves in water, making it suitable for products whose end-function requires the addition of water, such as nutritional supplements.
Pouches: Pouches can hold a variety of oddly shaped applications. They can also be manufactured from a range of materials to meet sterilization requirements.
Cartons: Manufactured from fiber boards, cartons are suitable for products that can be stored at room temperature within a typical, made-to-size, boxed structure. Over the counter medicine, such as basic capsule pills, are often packaged within individual cartons. Materials can range from white lined chipboard to basic folding boxboard.
Many medical products depend on medical polymer films, an essential component in medical packaging, to protect against contaminants and maintain the products’ integrity. Medical polymer films also inhibit or enable the circulation of air, as well as guard against light, moisture and other gases.
Common types of medical film materials:
Single films Laminations Coextruded films
Laminations are comprised of two or more individual films, typically featuring the best properties of each film in the final composite. Laminations are very stable, and are often used to manufacture pouches. Materials used to create laminations include polyethylene-cellophane, polypropylene-cellophane-polyethylene and polyethylene-polycarbonate.
Whereas laminations require individual layer fabrication, coextruded films simultaneously manufacture multiple layers. Coextruded films are sometimes used in place of adhesives and coatings. Typically, coextrusion films can be made from high-density polyethylene, polystyrene, polypropylene, or polyvinyl chloride. Most coextruded films are impermeable by gas, which enables their use as packaging for sterile products.
Tyvek material is commonly used for packaging products that have been gas-sterilized, such as gloves and wound dressings.
Medical Packaging Standards
There are several codes in place to ensure the quality of medical packaging. Two of these standards include:
ISO9000: Quality Management Standard; and
PSO9000: Pharmaceutical Packaging Materials Standard.
After a package has been produced, it undergoes testing and inspection to ensure it meets the appropriate standards. For a further explanation of medical packaging codes, please visit this Web site: http://www.iso.org