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ISPE's meeting projects optimism

Chuck Reed, chairman of ISPE's Packaging Community of Practice, discusses healthcare packaging issues and trends in this question-and-answer interview.

Hp 19091 1 Weiler Ispe
"Thriving in a Survival Environment" was the theme for the Nov. 8-11, 2009 ISPE Annual Meeting in San Diego. The survival mode, however, is evolving into a more upbeat one, although still aware the immediate future faces some uncertainty.

That's the message from Chuck Reed, chairman of the Intl. Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering's (ISPE) Packaging Community of Practice (PCOP). Reed is also the director of sales and marketing at Weiler Engineering. Weiler provides aseptic packaging machinery for pharmaceutical and healthcare applications, including the Asep-Tech® blow/fill/seal system shown in the accompanying photo.

In the following article, Reed discusses the ISPE, PCOP, and other packaging matters with Healthcare Packaging (HCP).

HCP: Tell us about the ISPE event and some of the key issues going on within the packaging community?

Reed: The event was well attended this year. I heard reports that there were more than 1,500 attendees, which is fairly good given the economic situation. The theme was 'Thriving in a survival environment' and I think it mirrored that in some of the sessions that were held. As usual there were a lot of updates provided through some of the various arms regarding inspectional opportunities and regulatory [matters]. There were also some innovative presentations, such as Roche's facility of the year award.

HCP: Tell us about the Packaging Community of Practice, how long it has existed, and describe its evolution:

Reed: We've been a Community of Practice for about five years. We've tried to provide this to the industry as a resource for packaging professionals. That's really the focus of the group. ISPE has set up a bunch of individual communities of practice centered on technology and specific issues of concern to ISPE. Packaging is a rather broad perspective that covers not only processing but also product applications. So you have process and product engineers, and you have packaging professionals. It's a diverse group of individuals, and we are fortunate to have a lot of valuable contributors to the group.

HCP: Describe your role within the Packaging Community of Practice and how it helps you as a healthcare packaging professional?

Reed: My focus is to be a facilitator with the COP. Our goal is to provide an opportunity for subject matter experts within the packaging sphere of influence who are able to help serve the community as a resource. The Steering Community is set up to help guide those activities. Our focus is to try to help with the production of technical documents, webinars, and those sorts of things produced by ISPE so membership has them available. The society itself is really here to serve the membership. Our focus is to be a vehicle that serves the packaging component of the industry.

HCP: You had mentioned earlier that the overall theme of ISPE's annual meeting was "Thriving in a survival environment." Do you believe that we are still in that survival mode?

Reed: I would say in the general tone of the meeting, yes, but we are in recovery. I think we are probably past the panic survival mode from what I have seen, and I would think that most folks would agree. We are lean and mean—most of the companies I talked to are in the process of finalizing downsizing plans, or right-sizing plans, whatever you want to call it. I know there are going to be some more job losses in the industry. Everyone knows that, based on consolidation of the companies that have taken place in recent months, but in general, the mood is pretty positive. There is a lot of really good activity going on, there's synergy that has been developed among the different technologies. I think going forward the healthcare market in general is in a very good position.

HCP: How can readers of this interview join ISPE and become involved in the Packaging Community of Practice?

Reed: The best thing I can say is that you don't have to be a member of ISPE to become involved at the initial levels. The communities of practice are available on the ISPE website. You can sign on and view any of the communities and get involved in any of the discussion groups. The only thing you cannot do is post to the community, but you can look at the discussion groups and gain valuable information. Hopefully, that would encourage folks to become active and want to join ISPE. There are tremendous areas of involvement open for volunteers, and this is a volunteer organization. It is a non-profit organization and we exist for the benefit of the members, and it is completely run by the memberships.

HCP: Are there any specific areas within the PCOP that could use some input and assistance from potential members?

Reed: Yes. We are actively soliciting members who are subject-matter experts within packaging that would be interested in serving on the Steering Committee. We are really looking for new input and would welcome anyone with an interest.

HCP: Please provide us with your "40,000-foot" overall view or perspective on the state of the packaging community today. What are some of the key issues as you see them?

Reed: We've heard about sustainability and patient care. I think that patient safety is still the watchword in healthcare. Packaging plays an important role in that because we are actually the delivery component for most of the products that go to the end user, the consumer. I think that packaging is going to evolve. Sustainability is only going to be possible if it's economically viable. So we have to be aware of the drivers that are out in the realm of public opinion, but we also have to be able to be responsible and provide a revenue source for our companies.
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