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New report has Rx for drug packaging

Institute of Medicine wants more unit-dose packaging and clearer copy on product labels.

New Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations in July in support of unit-dose and unit-of-use drug packaging will undoubtedly lead to scrutiny of drug manufacturer and hospital packaging operations. The report boldly states: "The strategy of using calendar blister packs could help large numbers of patients (including seniors, children, and those challenged by cognitive, physical or functional impairment) take their medication more reliably and safely, and enhance their treatment outcomes."

The report seems sure to set off a debate both within industry and in Washington on whether drug manufacturers are moving quickly enough into blister packs, though there is no federal requirement of any kind that they do so. The report also criticizes the state of drug packaging generally, and suggests that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publish a guidance document for drug manufacturers to help them get better at designing packaging.

But the report's recommendations on unit-of-use and unit-dose packaging are apt to be more controversial. Alan Goldhammer, associate vice president, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), notes that drug companies already put certain products in unit-dose packaging. But any individual company's decisions to extend unit-dose packaging will be based on "what their customers want." He adds, "It will be a commercial decision."

Unit-dose for hospitals, bulk bottles for pharmacies, special doses for children, and economic issues are covered in the complete version of this story to be published in the October issue of Packaging World magazine.

-- By Stephen Barlas, Contributing Editor
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