Walter Berghahn is a very smart man.
Berghahn, who chairs the board of the Healthcare Compliance Packaging Council and is vice president of packaging technology, AmerisourceBergen Packaging Group, wrote recently in Pharmaceutical and Medical Packaging News that patient adherence could be improved with smarter drug packaging.
Today, “Prescription vials do less to communicate with the patient than does the average OTC package,” Berghahn writes. Think about it. Before a patient pops his antidepressant, ACE inhibitor, whatever, if he has any questions, he has to find the answers on a 1-inch by 3-inch amber vial – phone numbers, amounts, restrictions, warnings, and so on. If he can’t see too well, that can be a problem. Sure, if it’s a new script, he can look at the literature; but will he? Will he even understand it?
Berghahn points out in his article that he’s not the first to have thoughts of this. The Institute of Medicine talked about it four years ago in its preventing medication errors report, blaming 33% of errors on labeling and packaging issues. But industry has never taken this subject seriously. Not sexy enough for the marketers to do something about it, and because of the siloed nature of companies, manufacturing is not the place to start. Throw in a healthy dose of medical affairs, and you are sure not to have something done.
Berghahn also singles out Pfizer and Wal-Mart for using some compliance-cognizant packaging. The notion of RFID technology in unit-of-use containers is good, but is it practical?
But Berghahn wants more: He wants all stakeholders to recognize that smarter packaging, maybe like this programmable cell phone idea we found in PubMed, could help alleviate the compliance problem. And then he wants the stakeholders to do something about it.
Like we said. Berghahn is a very smart man.