Five minutes at CPhI worldwide with …
Chemistry Today/Pharma Horizon: What innovations are you presenting here at CPhI?
Jens Christian Friis : At CPhI we presented different packaging innovations. For example Gx InnoSafe a syringe with an integrated and passive safety system that prevents unintentional needle stick injuries and Gx RTF Vials supplied with the well-known Ompi EZ-fill packaging format. With their oval shape, our extremely handy Duma Pocket containers look more like boxes of sweeteners, chewing gum, or peppermints. Patients prefer pharmaceutical packaging that does not give away its contents at first glance. Referring to the new FDA-requirements we produce our type A US dropper bottles with a fixed TE-ring since Q3, 2017.
We always try to see the packaging as a concept solution. This means that as we develop a syringe, such as InnoSafe here, different departments of our company can work together to develop a common product. We have the support for each of the components in site, without having to rely on external organizations. Our packaging is made with the patient in mind; at the end of the day it has to be easy and safe for the end user. We also want to help compliance by guaranteeing the right dose is delivered. We also think of the nurses and other health operators: when you have to open a packaging fifty times a day, you need it to be easy to open, to close and to be safe.
CT/PH: Any important acquisitions recently?
JCF: We grow both organically and by acquisitions and licensings; as an example of the latter we recently got an exclusive licensing agreement with West Pharmaceuticals in the syringe field. In US we expanded by acquiring Centor a couple years ago, located in Berlin, Ohio. In addition to the Centor acquisition we used that as the start of a greenfield operation on plastic packaging that allowed us to strengthen firmly our position in this respect within the US market. Going forward, emerging markets are always up in our agenda: we acquired in Brazil and India, for example. Established markets have solid growth rates. However to follow and support our clients on their continued internationalization process we also need to further expand our existing footprint in the emerging markets. These markets there can be unsteady and more volatile, however are important for our long term sustainable growth.
CT/PH: Speaking of emerging markets, is there a different kind of demand there for packaging?
JCF: There is a very clear difference. The mature markets have a well established health care system where the packaging demands for more customised solutions is higher compared to some emerging markets where generics are the key drivers and simple distribution/ dosage solutions are required. They are often not at the point where they need very complex medical devices and/ or can afford these type of packaging solutions. US and European markets on the other hand are already talking about devices connected with smartphones, at the other side of the technology spectrum. But we know that in five to ten years these markets will ask what now we are asking in the developed markets , and we will be ready for that. And yes, there is a difference in how cost-effective the products need to be. But even in Europe, even if customers demand innovation, the demand is often also cost-driven.
CT/PH: Does the rise of biological impact your offer?
JCF: Whenever you make a new drug, the interactions between the drug and the container are critical. This directly impacts the shelf life. A drug might last only a few weeks in a vial; one can work on the side of the drug to improve the life but it could an enormous amount of effort to the pharmaceutical company involved. For biologicals, we introduced a metal-free syringe where the tungsten pin has been replaced by a ceramic one. We looked at the type of glass involved and we improved the silicon treatment: you clearly want one side of the glass to be silicon-treated to make a protective barrier but you do not want it to interact with your medicine, so a special treatment is required. We also made a plastic multilayer vial for high potency compounds, such as oncology, that has an added safety measure. When a glass vial falls on the floor and breaks you suddenly have a risk of chemical exposure on the healthcare operator or the patient., We developed a multilayer concept, that does not break easily, but crucially it retains the visual appearance and transparency of a normal glass vial. This is important for visual inspection of the vial. It has to look the same and feel the same, not only to be compatible with other medical apparatus but also to be familiar to the healthcare personnel.
CT/PH: It is interesting to hear there is a psychological component in pharma packaging.
JCF: Indeed. We designed in this respect another packaging, this time plastic based, the Duma Pocket range of products. People tend to be shy when showing they are taking medicines. We thus created a packaging that looks more like a candy or chewing-gum box, so that it does not give out the privacy of the patient.
CT/PH: What other demands drive packaging innovation?
JCF: New materials are paramount. We keep developing new materials for our containers. Combining these materials is then the key to develop new packaging solutions. Another area is preservative-free solutions. long term usage of eye drops can cause irritation due to the preservatives used so so packaging solutions that remove the need for preservatives are needed. Technologically, networking packaging to smartphones and other appliances is another direction in order to improve the increasing demands for compliance. In Gerresheimer we have established Gx Solutions with the aim to focus even more closely and efficiently on the increasing demands of specific groups of customers.
CT/PH: What puts Gerresheimer on top of the competition?
JCF: We have a lot of value proposition and global footprint – not so many in the industry can boast a global footprint like ours. Not only in sales, we have actual some 40 sites in 14 countries now across continents. Which is an asset because you need to be close to the pharma that you supply. We have a huge span of technology. We are not just a glass or plastic specialist – we want to offer innovative solutions to the pharma industry and the patient in both glass and plastic packaging.