New healthcare business head offers a global packaging perspective

Marc Haemel, newly appointed head of the Rexam Healthcare business, discusses key worldwide issues in this question-and-answer interview with Healthcare Packaging.

Hp 19083 Rexam Product Line
Healthcare Packaging (HCP): How would you describe Rexam's Pharma, Primary Packaging, and Prescription businesses?

Haemel: We have now one global business that will allow us to build on synergies to better serve our customers. We will continue to develop solutions to improve patients' lives but we will have stronger teams and we will accomplish more. The former Pharma group had built a recognized expertise in drug delivery devices such as insulin pens, inhalers, and nasal sprays. It also left a strong footprint in eyedroppers, containers, and closures in Europe and Asia. This makes a great combination with Primary Packaging, which had a leading position in North America for healthcare closures, containers, and ophthalmic packaging. Our Prescription business is more specific since we supply packaging for point-of-sale repack of drugs in the U.S., but the whole division has the same focus to develop patient-friendly packaging and devices to improve compliance.

HCP: What are the key issues faced by your customers in Asia, Europe, and North America? How are they similar/different?

Haemel: Compliance, safety, and drug-delivery effectiveness are three of the main areas that we come across globally. We have seen converging trends over the years. The U.S. used to be the most demanding market because of stringent FDA regulatory requirements. That is still the case, but in many emerging countries, the level of requirements has moved up and the local regulatory authorities have implemented additional measures to protect patients and ensure safety. That means that packaging and device quality are now a requirement worldwide. In addition, due to globalization, our customers manufacture in a given country and export all around the world. One example is India where the Indian pharmaceutical industry exports globally and specifically to the U.S., which means a need for high-quality packaging.

HCP: Is the Rx-to-OTC switch occurring around the globe? How significant is this issue?

Haemel: Yes, this has been a global trend, but it is stronger in some countries such as the U.S. This can be a strategy to defend a market position against generic entry. However, it has some limitations, since in many countries the OTC market has not been very dynamic due to the lack of reimbursement. It can also be the result of the reimbursement of some drugs--it gives more pricing freedom and opens new ways to promote the drug. I think that even though it has a significant effect, it will not be massive. For us, be it for OTC or prescription drugs, we strive to give the same quality to patients, with more focus on shelf appeal for OTC products.

HCP: How does Rexam work with global customers to develop and design packaging that functions well for customers?

Haemel: We have put a strong emphasis on developing innovative solutions for our customers and patients. To meet that goal, we now have three Technology Centers: in Europe, the U.S., and in India. We have gathered multidisciplinary teams to build the expertise necessary to develop solutions for tomorrow. These include innovation and development engineers, material specialists, regulatory experts, project quality engineers and program managers all working toward the same objective: Develop the best packaging or device to deliver drugs to patients safely, conveniently, and efficiently. These teams work in close connection with our customers' teams to create a deep understanding.

When we develop solutions to help patients and customers, our marketing teams lead our effort. Thanks to patient insights through user studies, therapeutic trends analysis, doctor interviews, and customer feedback, we come up with ways to improve patients' lives. For example, we are working on a new preservative-free eyedropper to eliminate allergies to preservatives, a new user-independent nasal spray to improve compliance. We also implement solutions to protect medical personnel from needle-stick contamination. We also improve traceability and fight counterfeiting through RFID-enabled containers.
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