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Pharmapack Report 2021: Digital data democratization, environmental factors & user experience driving device innovation in 2022

Ocular delivery and interactive packaging forecast to see big developments

New findings in the Pharmapack Report 2021 are released ahead of Pharmapack Europe, which will be held next week at Paris Expo, Porte de Versailles (October 13-14, 2021). The event is the leading hub for stakeholders across all parts of the pharmaceutical packaging and drug delivery supply chain, with a maximum of 5000 attendees and 360 exhibitors expected to be present.

The report includes an in-depth review from Team Consulting and Cambridge Design Partnership and offers a positive appraisal of pharma’s drug delivery device market in 2022 and beyond.

It’s a particularly exciting time in the global drug delivery and packaging sectors, as the industry meets again [after an 18-month hiatus] at Pharmapack Europe to share new ideas in a period when innovation has proliferated. In fact, a key feature of the event is the dedicated Start-up Hub, which provides a vital platform for the global audience to meet with innovators and discover early-stage products.

Significantly, in the short term, the report predicts that Covid vaccines will continue to sustain a strong demand for syringes and needles. However, moving forward, novel device innovation will be centered on patient experience and connectivity, exploring how this can improve the democratization of data and improve adherence. The crucial challenge the Pharmapack experts identify is ‘how will developers adapt to both changing data custodianship regulation’, but also, how this trend interplays with the global desire to make device production more sustainable. This is a significant concern for smart packaging and connected devices which often use virgin materials, single-use plastics and add much greater complexity to lifecycle CO2 impact and recycling.

“There may be push back from consumers or even reputational damage over environmental concerns about waste. Added connectivity also has a significant impact on carbon output during the development phase, as well as at end of life, meaning developers will need to carefully weigh up the benefits against the environmental costs. A case could be made that adding connectivity could go some way to offset environmental costs, as it could potentially improve patient adherence and lead to less costly hospital interventions as a result of patients not taking their therapy as prescribed. However, there is not enough data to accurately understand this impact at this time,” commented Peter Matthewson, Head of Electronic Engineering, Team Consulting.

In fact, how consumers experience the use of devices, incentives for adoption and packaging will become a central tenet in offsetting the impacts of new devices while innovation catches up with sustainability concerns. Uri Baruch, Head of Drug Delivery at Cambridge Design Partnership, predicts that pharma companies and device developers will increasingly look directly at successful consumer brands for lessons in how to improve adoption. He suggested that smart packaging that integrates a digital experience into the physical packaging could be one solution. “For example, a patient who has a question while unpacking their drug could scan the box with their phone to access frequently asked questions, an interactive user guide, even augmented reality training. In addition, the experience could be hyper-personalised via digital. For instance, a patient could find suggestions for the best time of the week to take their drug, based on data from other patients with similar lifestyles.

The drug side effects themselves should also be evaluated in terms of device design, as a drug that has unpleasant side effects is far more likely to see patients slipping in terms of adherence as they often feel worse post taking the therapy. Senior Medical Innovation and Research Consultant at Cambridge Design Partnership suggests that ‘while adherence issues aren’t usually to do with the device, an injection journey that carefully considers user experience can go a long way to reducing the friction and can even give a less effective molecule the leading edge.’

Similarly, from data ownership and usage perspective, Matthewson suggests patients must be convinced of the benefits of using connected devices and sharing their data before we can expect wider adoption. He added, “consumers themselves are also a lot more aware of the choices they are making around sharing their data, meaning device developers will need to work hard to convince their users to engage through their design and marketing.”

While the last 18-months have been centered on meeting the pandemic challenges, new drug delivery will potentially see great strides in the next few years, especially those that improve the patient’s experience, for example, oral delivery of vaccines or even ocular delivery in oncology. 

Brennan Miles, Managing Consultant – Drug Delivery, at Team Consulting commented: “Ocular delivery is an area in which we could see more innovation in the near future, focusing on drug delivery across the blood-brain barrier to improve how quickly it gets into the system. Such an approach would be particularly helpful in chemotherapy, for example, as when these drugs are delivered orally or via injection, they can be harmful as they affect more than just the targeted area. Direct intra-tumoral delivery would be a brilliant breakthrough for cancer treatment, however, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome before this can be achieved.”

Speaking ahead of Europe’s largest drug delivery event, Sherma Ellis-Daal, Brand Manager for Pharmapack Europe, added: “Our experts point to an incredibly prosperous and innovative period for drug delivery devices in the next few years. And we are really excited to help foster this creative environment with both our online sessions on trends, but also, the in-person innovation hub. Most importantly, of course, growth and innovation are sustained by partnerships and collaborations and that’s why we are so excited to welcome back the pharma packaging and drug delivery device community. I encourage attending executives and those using our virtual platform to make full use of this vital opportunity to learn, meet and network.”

The full findings of the Pharmapack 2021 Report and Innovation Index are available for download here. For more information on the Pharmapack hybrid event and agenda please visit