Close-up of brown glass bottle at turntable production line.

9 Types of Pharmaceutical Packaging

Pharmaceutical packaging has a wide range of applications and uses. Basically, pharmaceutical packaging manufacturers and pharmaceutical packaging suppliers use packing material to store and protect drugs.

This is why pharmaceutical packaging is highly regulated in every country or region. These regulations are essential to ensure the patient’s safety.

It may interest you to know that pharmaceutical packaging is not only used to protect drugs from contamination, but also in the use for dosing and dispensing of its content. A good example is the caution label that is packaged in every drug.

Packaging for the pharmaceutical product is classified into primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary drug packaging is the first material that surrounds a pharmaceutical product. It comes in direct contact with the product, holding it firm.

Both secondary and tertiary packaging provides extra external protection. This post highlights some of the more common types of pharmaceutical and drug packaging. 


1. Vials

Vials are plastic or glass containers used to hold solids, liquids or powder. Try not to confuse vials with test tubes. Generally, vials are bigger than ampoules because of their large capacity. Unlike test tubes, which have rounded bottoms, vials have flat bottoms.

Glass vials come with either screw, crimp or lip closure options. Screw vials are closed with a screw dropper or cap, crimp vials are closed with a metal cap and a rubber stopper and lip vials are closed with a plastic cork or stopper.

Plastic vials can have other closure systems, such as ‘hinge caps’ that snap shut when pressed.


2. Ampoules

Ampoules are small sealed vials that are used for packaging liquid pharmaceuticals. Open flame is used to melt the thin top to hermetically seal the package.

Ampoules are made of glass or less commonly plastic and generally opened by snapping off the neck.

Glass ampoules are more expensive than other types of drug packaging because of their injectable property that helps to protect the liquid drug from the air and other contaminants.


3. Blister Packs

Blister packs are pre-formed plastic, paper, or foil to hold formed solid unit doses of pharmaceuticals. They are widely used in Europe (about 85% of the time) and in North America (about 20% of the time) to package solid unit doses.

Blister packs consist of a pocket or cavity which is an essential element made from a thermoformed plastic. It usually has a lidding seal of aluminium foil, backing of paperboard or plastic film that can be punctured by hand.


4. Sterile Packaging

Sterile packaging features coextruded films to ensure the safety of drug products and medical devices.

The coextruded films are made using HDPE and PP plastics to protect the product as well as the safety and health of the customer.


5. Sachet Packaging

Sachet packaging is a rectangular or square sealed pouch that is often used for powder dosages and liquids in rare cases.

They are made of some type of plastic; hence, they can be single-use or resealable sachets. Sachet packaging is perforated so they can be easily torn open by hand.


6. Metals

Metals are mainly used to pack the dosage in gel forms. But the downside of using metals for packaging in pharmaceutical is that they are chemically reactive.

This is why tin-plated steel or tin is majorly used because it has low reactivity as compared to other metals.


7. Bottles

Bottles are common pharmaceutical packaging materials that are commonly used for tablets, capsules, and liquid pharmaceuticals.

They can be labelled and identified easily. Moreover, they come in different colours and shapes. The most common colour is light brown or orange because:

  • They let enough visible light through to make the content visible
  • They can prevent ultraviolet light from damaging the potentially photosensitive contents.

8. Glass Bottles

Pharmaceutical bottles are made with either glass or plastic. Glass bottles are commonly used to store liquid drugs because of its excellent barrier properties.

Pharmaceutical glass bottles manufacturers use this material because of its chemically inert nature which facilitates more comprehensive protection.

Glass medicine bottles are often fitted with child-resistant closures for safety reasons. In terms of visibility, amber glass bottles are used more frequently because of its protective property.

It protects the drug from UV rays, which can damage the product – there is a lower risk of interaction with leachable substances. The downside of using glass bottles is that they are fragile.

Unlike plastic bottles, they can be broken easily during transportation if not handled with caution.

There are three types of glass, namely:

  • Type I: ultra-resistant borosilicate glass
  • Type II: surface treated soda-lime glass
  • Type III: soda-lime glass

9. Plastic Bottles

On the other hand, plastic bottles are inexpensive, lightweight, difficult to break, and flexible.

As a result, they can be manufactured into different sizes and used for capsules, tablets, or as prescription bottles. In terms of visibility, plastic bottles can be clear, white, or amber.

These are the reasons why pharmaceutical plastic bottles manufacturers use this kind of materials for pharmaceutical packaging.

The major concern over plastic is that there is an increased possibility of plastic materials to interact with the product by means of transferring leachable.

Examples of plastics used for pharmaceutical packaging include:

  • LDPE: low-density polyethylene
  • HDPE: high-density polyethylene
  • PET: polyethylene terephthalate
  • PP: polypropylene

So here we go, the most common ways to package pharmaceutical products.

For further enquiries and professional advice, please feel free to get in touch with MH Multipack Sdn Bhd, the first and only Malaysia professional SMART Packaging manufacturer that provides one-stop solutions in Smart Packaging System compatible with Industry 4.0.