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Evaluating oil and resin pricing concerns

Packaging pros look down the road to project if oil supply disruptions from recent hurricanes will change packaging strategies.

"It is possible that the effects of Katrina and Rita will have a profound effect on the feedstocks that we rely on to make packaging," suggests David Rudd, senior engineering specialist, Cardinal Health. "Recently, several major chemical companies have announced that their capacity to manufacture polymers and plastics has been fundamentally affected. Some have even announced that they are invoking the 'force majeur' clause in their supply contracts. Beyond the obvious effects of this reduction in supply and the resulting increase in cost, this may lead to more subtle changes in the way packaging is sourced and made."

Nancy St. Laurent, senior engineer of sterile facilities and packaging systems, Lockwood Greene, declares, "This could finally make the U.S. look at changing the way it uses plastic. I have always been amazed at the difference in packaging philosophies between the U.S. and Europe. Europe uses far less plastic than we do. It also has other significant differences in sterile drugs. It provides a lot of sterile drugs in ampoules. The U.S. uses either glass vials with stoppers and aluminum seals, or glass syringes with stoppers. Europe uses much more 'green' packaging, such as [paper]board, which is cheaper and more biodegradable than plastic," she believes.

Dana M. Guazzo, Ph.D., president of consulting firm RxPax LLC, offers another perspective: "Forgetting the top-line cost of purchasing plastics, oil pricing and availability of plastic packaging has forced pharmaceutical firms to qualify alternative plastic resins for package component materials. This multifaceted process of re-qualification includes testing product for stability, filing regulatory submission changes, changing incoming component specifications, and the list goes on. So the monetary and resource drain to a company due to resin prices and availability can be enormous."

--ByJim Butschli, Editor
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