Pharmaceutical Packaging: Types and Business Advantages

Pharmaceutical Packaging: Types and Business Advantages

In the pharmaceutical industry, appropriate pharmaceutical packaging forms an integral part of maintaining the quality of the drugs. It ensures the safety of sensitive and highly regulated medicines during their shipping. Pharmaceutical packaging is mostly done in three layers in accordance with the regulatory requirements mandated by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO). The three layers include primary, secondary, and tertiary pharmaceutical packaging. Here, we share a deep insight into the various types of packaging and the advantages of choosing the right one for a particular medicine category.

The Significance of Pharmaceutical Packaging

Pharmaceutical items must be specifically packed and shipped carefully to ensure their quality remains the same even after reaching the destination store. The use of appropriate packing material is necessary to avoid any kind of physical damage. It is also necessary to ensure that the chemical composition of the drugs does not get altered.

Each of the three layers of packaging serves a specific purpose and, hence, has its own significance.

Types of Pharmaceutical Packaging

Let’s take a detailed look at the function of primary, secondary, and tertiary pharmaceutical packaging

1. Primary Packaging

Primary packaging is the layer that immediately surrounds a medicine or any formulation. It is designed to guard the product’s chemical composition. This keeps the medicine’s quality intact and ensures it remains safe to use. Primary packaging in the pharmaceutical industry is done using different materials. The material and make vary depending on the type and form of the medicines to be packed. Some of the examples of primary packaging are as follows:

  1. Blister Packaging – A thermoformed plastic packet that is specially created to seal capsules and tablets in the cavities within it. Plastic or aluminium foil is used to cover the open side of the cavities.
  2. Vials – This is a high-quality container made of glass or plastic. It is used to store medicines in liquid, solid as well as powdered form.
  3. Bottles with Screw Caps – Plastic or glass bottles with screw caps are also used to store liquid, solid or powdered medicines.
  4. Tubes – Made of plastic or aluminum, tubes are mostly used to store ointments or gels.
  5. Strip Packaging – With this packaging, tablets and capsules are packed individually. It is a variant of blister packing.
  6. Ampoules – These are small glass or plastic containers that are used to pack liquid medicines.
  7. Sachets – These are made to store single-dose use medicines, mostly in powdered form.
  8. Aerosol Cans – Medicines that come in the form of sprays are stored in these cans.
  9. Carpules – Made of glass or plastic, these cartridges are used to store dental anesthetics.

2. Secondary Packaging

    Secondary packaging is mainly for the purpose of branding in addition to providing an extra layer of protection. It keeps the product and the primary packaging intact. This packaging includes branded boxes that are used to display products in retail shops. Another purpose of secondary packaging is to provide information related to the product’s ingredients and dosage. Any caution related to the product’s use and its manufacturing and expiry dates are also mentioned on this packaging. Thus, secondary packaging proves to be helpful during the segregation and distribution of the products. Some of the common types of secondary pharmaceutical packaging include the following:

    1. Blister packs - In many cases, these are used for secondary packaging as well. They are made using plastic sheets and are sealed with an aluminium foil.
    2. Child-resistant packaging – It is a special packaging that is designed to be not easily opened by a child.
    3. Convenience packaging – Some secondary packaging is designed for the convenience of the patients. For example, compliance packs that help organise doses for a specific time or day.

    3. Tertiary Packaging

    Tertiary packaging is mostly used for the safe transportation of medicinal products. It comprises rigid packaging that comes in different forms and materials. It protects the product and its other packaging. Tertiary packaging guards the product against bright sunlight, dust, moisture, and damage due to physical impacts during transportation. Here are some of the examples of tertiary packaging:

    1. Cardboard boxes – These are the most commonly used tertiary packaging. They come in handy and are available in different sizes. They are a cost-effective and lightweight packaging solution. Cardboard boxes can easily be customised for branding and are equally easy to ship.
    2. Stretch wraps – These are used to secure the palletised load of the products. This transparent and stretchable plastic film offers stability and protection to the pile of products. The packets can easily be covered with stretch wraps using wrapping machines. 
    3. Plastic pallets – They are rigid structures that provide a damage-resistant cover to pharmaceutical products. Being moisture and chemical-resistant, they are known for their durability.

    Benefits of Different Pharmaceutical Packaging

    The various benefits of different types of pharmaceutical packaging are:

    A. Primary Packaging Benefits

    It is the most essential layer of packaging as it is used to cover the medicines directly. Here are the various benefits of this type of packaging:

    • Protection – It protects the product from dust, moisture, and contamination. 
    • Dosage control– Packaging such as vials and blister packs offer dosage control. Thus, they ensure that the patients take only accurate dosages.
    • Ease of Use – It is easy to open and dispense, which makes it easier for the patients to use.

    B. Secondary Packaging Benefits

    It is designed to cover the primary packaging. Here is a look at its advantages:

    • Added Protection Secondary packaging provides an added layer of protection to keep the pharmaceutical product safe inside. It safeguards the medicine against external factors such as temperature variations and contaminants.
    • Simplifies Shipping Process – Since this packaging contains clear information about the products, it makes the segregation and shipping process easier.  
    • Branding – Secondary packaging is a way to increase brand awareness. It includes the brand’s logo, marketing messages as well as product information. It is designed to enable brand recognition.

    C. Tertiary Packaging Benefits

    The benefits of tertiary packaging are as follows:

    • Safe Shipping – This is the outermost packaging that guards the products. It is designed to ensure the safe transportation and storage of pharmaceutical products.
    • Inventory Management – This type of packaging improves pallet stability. It proves to be helpful when it comes to inventory management, especially during the logistics and distribution phase. 
    • Prevents Damage – It reduces the risk of physical damage as well as contamination of the product.


    The quality of drugs manufactured is examined and assured after several quality checks. To maintain the same value even after their packing and transportation, pharmaceutical packaging specific to each drug category is used. Each type of packaging, including primary, secondary, and tertiary, has its own role to play in keeping the product safe and ensuring hassle-free shipping. Pharmaceutical companies have to maintain the regulatory requirements while choosing the packaging.

    India is the world’s largest exporter of pharmaceutical products, hence, the packaging is of utmost importance in ensuring the quality and retaining the brand names.  The development of new packaging techniques has revolutionised the pharmaceutical packaging industry. Statistics reveal that the Indian pharmaceutical packaging market is anticipated to achieve a compound annual growth rate of 7.54% between 2021 and 2030.


    1. What is the significance of labelling in pharmaceutical packaging?

    Labelling is an essential part of pharmaceutical packaging. It is done to provide information related to the product, dosage, caution, expiry date, brand name and more.

    1. What are some common materials used in pharmaceutical packaging?

    Common materials used in pharmaceutical packaging are glass, plastic, aluminium foil, and paperboard.

    1. What are some of the temperature-controlled packaging used in transporting pharmaceuticals?

    Temperature-controlled packaging includes polystyrene EPS boxes, gel packs,  dry ice, etc.