Event review: Pharmapack Europe 2020

Global biologics markets, delivery device innovation, and ‘unpacking’ new growth opportunities for pharma smart packaging among key take-home messages

Improving adherence to medication via smarter, patient-centric pharmaceutical packaging and extracting further value from existing medicines and delivery devices are two of the latest key strategies aimed at reducing waste and protecting the bottom line, according to experts at the recent Pharmapack Europe. The event is widely seen as an excellent yardstick of the industry’s prospects for the year ahead. Encouragingly, the event played host a record 411 exhibiting companies, 5366 attendees and 325 delegates.

Europe’s leading pharmaceutical packaging and drug delivery event took place at the Paris Expo, Porte de Versailles, 5-6 February, featuring many innovations as well as novel drug delivery solutions, with ‘waste management’, “connectivity” and “patient centricity” being some the key themes throughout this year’s edition.

A who’s who of pharma packaging and drug-device innovators exhibited, from Aptar, SHL, Stevanato Group and BD to Nemera and West Pharmaceutical Services; several major new technologies and partnerships were announced during the show.

Some of the most promising innovations were presented by emerging companies in the Start-up hub with technologies featured from AI development platforms through miniaturised/non-intrusive sensors, to vial/ampule combination devices ad smart packaging.

Industry insights

The conference played host to four themed content sessions, while the learning labs and several educational and interactive workshops explored major industry changes that lie ahead.

Aurelio Arias, Engagement Manager at IQVIA, suggested during his session that "the future of value-added medicines is not just driven by deeper insights and data capture but will also see gamification transforming the engagement of therapies". Arias added that "while patients are concerned about the security and the custodianship of their data", they are still actively using connected devices. As a result, the natural evolution of this trend could be that healthcare companies will increasingly incentivise better compliance through gamification.

One area that connected devices perhaps lag behind other areas of pharma packaging and devices is in environmental impact. Gregor Anderson, Managing Director at Pharmacentric, believes that the industry still has a long way to go when it comes to the sustainability of connected devices, commenting on the duality of connected devices. "On one hand, it is an exciting field of new possibilities, but unfortunately on the other, we have not yet ‘fully married them with our sustainability goals’. He believes that is the next evolution for the industry in the year ahead, as more devices and technologies are now moving into commercial applications," he said.

In the "Challenges in drug delivery for biologics" session, experts agreed that combining biologic drug and device development, while meeting regulatory standards is a significant learning curve for the industry.

Overall, drug delivery was seen as increasingly integral to the growth of the biologics market, with patient centricity an essential component in adherence.

In the short term, this is projected to push manufacturers to provide better devices, with designs that ease the patient experience. In the long term, however, experts postulated connected devices will play a major role in the advancement of the biologics industry, with increasing levels of vital data on how devices are used post-launch.

Technology challenges

In the "New horizons in innovation" session, Marc Rohrschneider, Head New Technologies, Device Development and Commercialisation at Novartis, predicted that with pharma now having access to technology for connecting boxes, vials and devices to networks, the next decade is not about the technology challenges, but on exploring how the industry safeguards data, and ultimately, who is its custodian.

Blockchain is another industry buzzword of the last year, but experts at Pharmapack agreed that Blockchain's improved accountability could be the most inmmediate use in pharma supply, rather than in securing patient data. “You should think of it as the most secure audit trail you can have. Immutable, temporal and despite what many have said, scalable” commented Jason Lacombe, Chief Executive Officer, Veratrak. The key to delivering on its potential is for pharma and tech communities to work closely together.

Silvia Forroova, Brand Director at Pharmapack Europe commented, “In the last few years, as our Pharmapack agenda is testament to, we have seen the rise of truly patient-centric delivery forms, increasingly smart and child-safe packaging, and a growing awareness of the vital role we can play in bringing about a more environmentally friendly industry.

"But what we are also seeing is that by bringing different groups together we are reinventing the art of the possible. It’s one of the greatest strengths of Pharmapack that we provide a platform to help build networks and communities, share learning and celebrate new innovations. Our experience of this event in 2020 is that the industry looks well set for growth in the year ahead and we can expect to see more collaborations in an age when the delivery of products is changing quickly. This is great news for drug delivery and packaging companies, but even better news for patients.”

Pharmapack Europe will return to the Paris Expo, Porte De Versailles on 27-28 January 2021.

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