Meeting a number of quality and safety criteria is essential for any pharmaceutical packaging likely to be accessed by members of the public. Can cartonboard applications offer a solution to other concerns such as counterfeiting?

Pharmaceutical packaging for prescription and OTC products has many demands in common with those for FMCG packaging. Protection, ease of use, clear printing, economy and environmental responsibility are all met by good cartonboards. Other attributes hidden to the naked eye – purity, lightweight construction, and the ability to incorporate Braille or security features – are also essential for highquality cartonboard in pharmaceutical applications.

M-real Consumer Packaging, a leading European producer of folding boxboards, has worked closely with the pharmaceutical industry for many years, feeding back its requirements into continuous product and service improvement. M-real has a strong tradition of innovation, such as improved coatings and lightweighted boards, equally beneficial to pharma and other packaging sectors.

Meeting criteria with innovation

An important prerequisite for pharma packaging is hygiene and one of M-real’s innovations is its development of bleached chemi-thermo-mechanical pulp (BCTMP), which has a particularly high purity.

BCTMP is used in the middle layer of Carta Solida, one of M-real’s brands designed for OTC products and prescription drug packaging. Carta Solida uses pure virgin fibres, has a dirt-free surface, and is low dusting during converting and printing. Unprinted, the high brightness, whiteness and clean fresh look of Carta Solida reflect well the values of pharma companies.

Braille embossing of product names on the outer packaging also makes demands on a board. It must resist breakage when the Braille text is embossed, but after releasing the printing pressure, the embossed image must remain raised. A strong and elastic cartonboard such as Carta Solida fulfils these criteria.

M-real has supplied cartonboard to Swedish packaging converter Eson Pac since the early 1990s, building its relationship on the quality and solid performance of Carta Solida. Eson Pac includes some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies among its customers.

‘We are especially satisfied with the excellent printability of M-real’s cartonboard,’ says Leif Sternryd, quality, purchasing and IT manager of Eson Pac. ‘Another important factor is efficiency gained from the lightweight construction and consistent quality of the board.’

Customer focus

For OTC packaging, printability is vital in reproducing brand colours and images accurately, and ensuring instructions are easy to read. OTC brand owners invest in attention value, attractive designs and elaborate finishing, all vital when the majority of buying decisions are made at point of sale.

Consistency of the packaging board is therefore important, and M-real’s quality tolerances are now the strictest in the industry. Consistency also reduces the likelihood of upsets, stoppages and waste in converting and packing processes. Lightweighting has been another priority, allowing M-real’s boards to offer the same stiffness, strength and bulk as conventional boards but at a lower weight, achieving cost savings and environmental benefits.

Finally, in the fight against counterfeiting, M-real develops high-quality technologies aimed at upgrading the security level of paperboard substrates and cartons. The most effective solutions have several security levels, functions and target groups of authentication. Counterfeiting has soared and low-quality, harmful or even toxic fake products pose real dangers to public health and safety, as well as destroying brand image and reputation. Although not the only solution, the technology to identify real packaging and products from fakes is a crucial tool in the brand owner’s armoury.