Packaging for the Aging Population

By Jerry Martin, pharmaceutical and life sciences consultant to PMMI

While discussions around pharmaceutical packaging have previously focused on tamper-evident and child-proof solutions, the industry must adapt amid another looming demographic shift: “the graying of America.” And it’s no secret. According to the US Census Bureau’s 2017 National Population Projections, all baby boomers will be over the age of 65 by 2030. This will lead to a major demographic shift with 78.0 million people aged 65 years and older by 2035, compared to 76.7 million under the age of 18.

This demographic change will challenge pharmaceutical manufacturers in new ways. The population—aging, elderly and/or geriatric—can have impaired eyesight, and trouble with memory. They can also have reduced manual dexterity, finger friction and cognitive ability. As a result, pharmaceutical companies must design packaging to accommodate the hurdles that these conditions present. If not, the affect of their prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC) medications may be altered or minimized when patients fail to take them as instructed. Especially when tamper-proofing or child proofing package designs are not tested on people over 70 years old, adherence can be hampered by inconvenience or simply, the failure to evolve.

There are a few key areas where pharmaceutical manufacturers can improve package design for an aging population:

  1. Extended Panels for Clarity on Guidance—Most prescription drug brands have focused on prescribing guidances for doctors who relay instructions to the elderly. This is an imperfect system as it relies on the patient to remember these instructions verbatim. If a patient forgets, they can only rely on the label’s fine print, which may be difficult for them to read, making compliance less likely. By including panels for medications targeting consumers over 65, these companies can increase the likelihood of adherence because the additional real estate allows for larger print.
  1. Marrying Child Proofing with Elder-Friendly Design—Tamper-proofing or child proof design does not have to directly oppose the accessibility of seniors. Much can be done to combine the best of both, such as the utilization of larger fonts and clearer graphics on labels thanks to sharper digital printing technology. Other features could include larger tabs for easy gripping on caps and blister packs that are easily punctured, but contained in a childproof container.
  1. Custom or Personalized Containers—Four out of five seniors are on some prescription medication and a third are on multiple medications. Out of that, maybe 12 percent don’t fill them and another 12 percent fill them but don’t take them. While some patients may be cutting doses to save money, many attribute this disparity to issues that can be resolved through packaging. Pill containers that accommodate multiple medications for each day of the week—or proprietary blister packs that do the same—are possible solutions that can be implemented at a pharmacy level with the support and cooperation of drug manufacturers.

Pharmaceutical professionals can learn more about packaging solutions for an aging population at Healthcare Packaging EXPO in 2019. Learn more at

About Jerry Martin

Jerry Martin is an independent consultant to pharmaceutical manufacturers and equipment suppliers for filtration, single use manufacturing, marketing, business development and regulatory compliance.  He was previously Sr. Vice President, Marketing and Global Scientific Affairs for Pall Life Sciences where he served the pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and vaccine industries for over 37 years.  He is currently chairman emeritus of the Bio-Process Systems Alliance, the single-use manufacturing trade association and a member of the USP Expert Panel on Plastic Systems Used for Manufacturing Pharmaceutical Products. He holds a M.Sc. in Microbiology from the University of Toronto.

2018-11-26T14:46:50-05:00 November 26th, 2018|