Packaging as a marketing and compliance tool

*Andrew Tolve reports on how pharma packaging can enhance marketing campaigns and boost compliance* Packaging is a vital branding tool for most consumer goods.

Andrew Tolve reports on how pharma packaging can enhance marketing campaigns and boost compliance

Packaging is a vital branding tool for most consumer goods.

It catches consumers eyes and makes them confident, even excited, to buy a specific item out of all the items in a store.

Conventional wisdom says that pharmaceutical products are a different story.

Patients only get pharma products after theyve been prescribed and paid for, meaning the package itself doesnt really matter.

But T.D. Lithgow, president of Meadwestvaco (MWV) Healthcare, a global packaging company, argues thats no longer the case.

As healthcare providers face ever-larger patient pools and the time for patient education dwindles, packaging has emerged as a critical medium of communication.

There are just not enough hours in the day for doctors or pharmacists to give the proper counsel, says Lithgow.

So our packages have to do a much better job of communicating important messages to the patient.

MWV manufactures a range of packaging solutions, from core cartons to dose titration packs to its signature Shellpak.

The company prides itself on conducting consumer research with physicians, pharmacists, and patients to understand key unmet needs.

Those needs are then integrated into MWVs packaging solutions.

We try to bring unique consumer and patient insights to our customers directly versus waiting for a brand manager to execute market research to provide the same information, Lithgow says.

Marketing managers to date havent actively conducted this research or been overly inclined to put packaging at the top of their priority lists.

Those who continue in this manner, Lithgow contends, will miss an opportunity to distinguish their products in an increasingly crowded healthcare space.

Clarity is king

The new US healthcare bill is set to usher 30 million Americans into the healthcare system by 2014.

Meanwhile, mass merchandisers like Target and Walmart are rolling out $4-prescription campaigns that funnel thousands of new patients into pharmacies each month, many of them part of the aging baby boomer generation.

Clarity in packaging, therefore, is essential.

New consumers need to be educated about the products theyre buyingabout the risks and the regimens that 15 years ago a physician or pharmacist would have had more time to explain.

Marketing managers should work with packaging companies to create graphics that convey important information in a concise manner.

If a product is more complicated, it will require more billboard space and a larger package to present that additional information in a user-friendly manner.

As a general rule, the elderly arent good at parsing fine print, so make the layout readable, intuitive, and inviting.

Also, make sure it clearly informs about safety and medication error.

Virtually everyone we speak tobig brand manufacturers, agencies, medical advisers, physicians, and healthcare consultantssays that medication error is an enormously important topic, Lithgow says.

We are keenly aware that as patients take medication, they have to be informed.

Adherence in a box

These days, it seems theres a new adherence solution around every cornertext-messaging campaigns, computer games, advanced behavioral economics software.

One of the most effective solutions, however, is the box medicines come in.

MWV has created Shellpak, a prepackaged, ready-to-dispense system that contains one treatment cycle of a medication as well as compliance aids and patient education materials.

Lithgow reports that in a recent MWV study, the adherence rate of patients who changed from vials to Shellpak spiked dramatically.

Its the first [research] of its kind to show that a specific package will drive compliance, Lithgow says.

The study, which will be published in 2011, was conducted without any in-store promotion, counseling, or medical information.

Patients simply received their medicine in a Shellpak rather than a vial.

Lithgow says thats one reason why approaching adherence through packaging is so effective; its a passive solution.

That is, it doesnt force the patient to feel the pharma firms presence bearing down on them as they swallow a pill.

Yet, like other adherence solutions, it gets them to do what companies want.

Shellpak isnt the only adherence packaging solution out there; RxMap multi-med adherence packaging is one of several other options.

In the years ahead, Lithgow says to watch for companies like his own partnering with wireless solutions like GlowCaps to create fully integrated compliance packaging offerings. (For more on GlowCaps and other high-tech adherence solutions, see Wireless solutions for patient non-compliance.)

What color is your package?

Everyone knows that green is in vogue these days.

The greener your raw materials, the greener your factory, the greener your fleet, the more likely your product is to sell.

As pharma companies think about ways to embrace sustainability and corporate social responsibility, packaging is a good place to start.

Does the paper packaging for your products come from sustainably managed forests?

Demand that it does, and then claim that on your branded website, which will give patients one more positive association with your product.

Likewise, insist that the plastic in your packaging is recyclable.

MWVs Shellpaks are recyclable but only in select communities, so the company is looking into ways to make its plastic more sustainable.

At the MWV innovation center in Raleigh, NC, the company is working on hybrid polymers and introducing recycled plastic into its products.

This year Coca-Cola unveiled PlantBottle, a plastic bottle partly sourced from plant-based polymers.

MWV expects in the years ahead to follow suit.

Virtually everything we do has a sustainability element to it, says Lithgow.

Customers and patients are keenly aware of how sustainable every product is. In our case, its part of our culture to make certain that its not just sustainable but its actually good for everyone and the environment, because frankly thats what our future depends on.

For more on packaging and compliance, join the sectors key players at Patient Adherence, Communication & Engagement Europe on May 31-June 1 in Berlin.