Packager Amcor hears dual sustainability calls

For drug packaging suppliers, like many links on the pharma supply chain, sustainability goes two ways: stewardship of the environment and stewardship of production--practices that minimize the risk of supply disruption to their pharma clients.

That's the view of Joe Wittemer, product development manager at Amcor Flexibles Pharma-Americas, which uses plastic film, aluminum foil and paper products to make blister and strip packs, cold-form laminates and dosage-cup lidding. Wittemer says in Greener Package that his pharma customers want to reduce package size and the amount of materials used, as well as toxicity. Some customers are investigating alternatives to packaging stalwarts PVC and BPA.

The other side of sustainability--concerning product supply to customers--is threatened by packaging supplier consolidation. To drugmakers, who are subject to seemingly as many regulations for packaging as for the drugs themselves, consolidating and vanishing packaging suppliers, as well as those making business decisions to curtail a certain line, pose a difficult-to-manage risk. That's why drugmakers usually keep a short list of alternate suppliers

Wittemer's views as reported offer a contrast to those of Pfizer VP for packaging services Rich Hollander, reported on Tuesday. If nothing else, they illustrate a difference in drugmaker packaging need between one big pharma and one packaging supplier describing the needs of his pharma client base.  Hollander doesn't mention sustainability or toxicity; he talks about the need for "simplistic and flexible" packaging gear--for shorter runs and quicker changeovers--to help big pharma downshift from the blockbuster business model to today's more cost-conscious environment.

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