Jun 05, 2023

RIB: Highlights from Pharmapack Paris 2023

by Rebekah Jordan

13 February 2023


Rebekah Jordan gives a brief round-up of her observations and highlights in this mini Pharmapack Paris 2023 review.

Pharmapack is over for yet another year. With not even a year apart from last year's show due to Covid-19, this one came around sooner than expected. However, the event certainly did not fall short of exciting innovations, insightful industry experts and of course, greatly anticipated visitors.

Pharmapack's Drug Delivery Innovation Index 2023 exceeded that of pre-pandemic - according to the Pharmapack 2023 report - with a score of 7.4 out of ten. This was up from the 6.5-figure dip that was recorded back in May 2022, suggesting that we are now beginning to see the end of the pandemic's impact on pharma and instead, a stupendous recovery with a confident outlook for the future ahead.

Learnings and developments from the Covid-19 pandemic have only accelerated and opened up new doors for innovations within the pharma and healthcare space. For example, back when the pandemic caused limitations on face-to-face healthcare, growing trends gained momentum in providing patient-centric care.

One example of this at the show was showcased in Phillips-Medisize's booth: a ready-to-go pen injector. See right.

With a focus on reducing pharma costs and risk to the patient, the innovation is a disposable autoinjector platform designed for multiple therapies. The user-friendly, customisability of the pen is what caught my eye. Features such as dose changeability with the use of a rotating dial and push-button colours to signal different dosing and drug requirements for a range of therapies; including diabetes, fertility, growth hormones, obesity, and osteoporosis. An ease of use device that aims to meet the "billion-unit-plus disposable pen injector market while reducing commercialisation costs and risks."

Moreover, the market for cold storage drugs is only expanding - accelerated by the pandemic - which means pharma companies are having to put their heads together to design appropriate delivery solutions and innovative technologies. The company's reconstituting autoinjector is a prime example of this being possible. Aiding the delivery of lyophilised drugs, its reusability bodes very well in minimising waste from an environmental perspective.

Patient independence and self-administration have jointly planted the seed for the growing trend of connected drug delivery solutions. The idea is to simplify the treatment administration process, minimise the risk to the patient (i.e. needle risk), and eliminate the requirement to do so in a healthcare setting - ultimately taking the burden off healthcare systems and improving patient experience.

Take a look at SHL Medical's article in the Jan/Feb 2023 issue of EPM, demonstrating the benefits of cartridge-based drug delivery and autoinjectors here.

Integrating the use of smartphones is one way to ensure this. Although connected drug delivery is not a new innovation, the increasing awareness and encouragement from the industry to "embrace the change" is enabling patients to become less reluctant to utilise digital solutions. We're at the point of no return, whereby the market for digital drug delivery is reflecting nothing but growth and potential.

And that should be the case. Our smartphones have become intricately involved in our daily lives: from alarm clocks to card payments, all the way to NHS Covid passes. Communication with the outside world has now become a process that takes minutes.

The pharma industry has taken advantage of this to digitalise people's daily health and lifestyle behaviours - incorporating digital solutions to remotely manage patient monitoring and treatment adherence. For regular drug delivery, this means ticking the boxes for support and guidance throughout the injection procedure, injection reminders, and interactive assistance from healthcare professionals, if needed - all at your fingertips.

Frits Stulp of Iperion (a Deloitte company) said that the pandemic "forced out-of-the-box thinking and helped identify weaknesses in existing systems." Innovations like this are lessening the burden on healthcare and giving the patient the freedom and option to complete their medication journey in the comfort of their own home - whilst having assistance only a click of a button away.

Berry Global highlighted the importance of digital incorporation with patient experience. Its proprietary RS01X platform is a capsule-based dry powder inhaler for the control and treatment of lung and systemic diseases, with built-in sensors that can track inhaler use.

After partnering with Amiko, the device was introduced into the world of digital health with its companion medicine app, Respiro - powered by user data and AI - providing personalised assistance to improve adherence and inhaler technique. User metrics such as inhalation flow rate and duration can be recorded through the sensors and transferred to the app, charging "predictive analytics and personalised user advice."

Winning the Drug Delivery Innovation category, Owen Mumford demonstrated the capabilities of its reusable connected auto-injector - UniSafe - for the delivery of subcutaneous medication. A mechanical device that requires no batteries or chargers to carry out its function and is, therefore, always ready for use.

Data can be easily transferred via Bluetooth between the patient and healthcare providers, aiding therapy compliance and remote patient assistance. With a "continual dose progression indicator" and "true end of dose notification" the auto-injector can guide the patient through the drug administration process.

Check out the full list of finalists Pharmapack Europe Award winners here.

Whilst observing the innovation section of the show, I spotted Korber Pharma Packaging's innovation of plastic-free Covid-19 tests. Yes, you heard that right! The Sustainable Rapid Covid Tester - which ended up winning the Sustainability Initiative Award - is composed of 100% recyclable cardboard.

In 2021, over 113 million Covid-19 test kits were used in Germany alone – resulting in 678 metric tons of plastic waste. In line with the growing trend of sustainability and reducing waste, Swiss Packaging experts sought a solution to replace 100% of the plastic material with cardboard mono-material. The innovation possesses 80% recyclability and releases up to 50% fewer CO2 emissions during the manufacturing process.

Covid-19 may be over but there's still plenty of innovation to lay down the foundation in prep for potential future pandemics.

For daily monitoring and treatment of diseases - such as diabetes or cancer treatment - frequent delivery of medications via a needle can be seen as an unappealing option.

With that, an in-depth meeting with PolyPlastics addressed the need for subcutaneous drug delivery through wearable devices. One innovation that stood out to me was its glass-clear, pure-plastic TOPAS COC (cyclic olefin copolymer) materials to launch its insulin delivery pump (in collaboration with MannKind Corporation) - providing up to three days of insulin drug delivery.

Injection-moulded V-Go is a once-daily device - worn like a patch - that can provide blood sugar control for everyday lifestyles with its patient-friendly controls at the push of a button.

Similarly, Stevanato Group's On-Body Delivery System (in collaboration with Bexson Biomedical) was exhibited for the "subcutaneous treatment of moderate-to-severe acute post-operative pain." This was certainly an interesting one! Devised to target the highly addictive properties of opioids, the formulation within the system is a controlled form of ketamine. Pre-filled, pre-loaded, and reusable up to 10 times, this innovation allows patients to self-administer controlled doses at home.

From the end of last year and coming into this year, there seems to be a shift in focus from Covid's emphasis on injectables to alternative forms of delivery, such as nasal delivery protection and next-generation approaches. I believe we will see a redefining of the norms and expectations of patient self-injection in the near future.

Back when the pandemic was at its peak, the priority was to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. With multi-dose vials acting as an appropriate solution for the mass to be vaccinated, the requirements for containment packaging were focused on fast time-to-market allowing little regard for additional prep time. Large-scale vaccine production, mixed with the short shelf life, no preservative and limited storage - and public hesitancy - it's estimated that around 1.1 billion Covid-19 vaccines have been wasted since the very beginning of the global rollout.

Whereas, fast forward to the current post-pandemic landscape, the rush to vaccinate has immensely slowed down. The focus is now more on limiting waste and creating more efficient processes. With fewer people lined up for the vaccines, the multi-dose vial is not the most appropriate solution as once it's opened, its shelf life only lasts a couple of hours - with the unused doses having to be disposed of.

SCHOTT gave a captivating talk in the Learning Labs on the progression of moving mRNA vaccines from vials to pre-filled syringes (PFS) - and addressed all the associated considerations accordingly.

With the extremely low-temperature storage demanded by mRNA vaccines, it's important to create solutions that can maintain the stability of the LNP, cause no breakage or stress cracking, and mitigate the risk of extractables and leachables within the medicine.

The TOPPAC syringes - also made of Cyclic Olefin Copolymer (COC) - have been investigated and proven to deliver that of the same quality and results as its glass competitor - providing an ideal solution for customers.

In the second month of 2023, we're already being made aware of the expected trends in pharma (a roundtable containing expert opinions from the likes of Healx, Lonza, ACG, and more), life sciences and drug development. So it will be exciting to see what this year holds and what kinds of progression and advancements we can reflect on in the industries at the end of the year.

by Rebekah Jordan

13 February 2023


Rebekah Jordan gives a brief round-up of her observations and highlights in this mini Pharmapack Paris 2023 review. At the heart of the patientMaking the process as easy as possibleFreedom from needles: The market for wearablesFrom product to package