Using contractors to fulfil packaging needs can significantly reduce the time new products take to hit the market, claimed Gareth Lewis of Cardinal Health, speaking at SMi's Pharmaceutical Packaging and Labelling conference in London last week.
Contractors often already have machinery in place that is suitable for a company's needs, and if not, tend to be able to install appropriate equipment much faster than pharmaceutical firms may be able to.
"Some companies can take up to a year to install a blister packing line – we could do it in 12 weeks," said Lewis.
Meanwhile, the practice of outsourcing to contractors can also free up resources that can be redirected towards other, more profitable, activities and can be a very logical and advantageous option for some companies.
"It makes sense," said Lewis, "would a company rather spend €1m on installing a packaging line, or on R&D?"
Outsourcing packaging is a growing trend, Lewis observed, with much of the standard 'run-of-the-mill' packaging being outsourced to cheaper locations such as India and China, though many pharmaceutical firms will opt for more specialist outsourcing partners for packaging with more stringent quality or regulatory requirements.
Lewis highlighted the importance of choosing an appropriate contract partner when considering outsourcing packaging, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. While non-pharma companies may seem a cheaper option initially, specialist providers can offer industry experience and compliance as well as technological expertise, which can prevent companies being stung when non-pharma packaging firms do not fully appreciate product or industry packaging standards and requirements, he said.
For example, according to Lewis, some non-specialist packaging contractors may have a poor attitude towards validation, refusing to carry out specific validation exercises for individual products.
Four issues were highlighted as major factors to consider when choosing an outsourcing partner for a company's packaging requirements: confidentiality, control, cost and capacity – the four C's.
These aspects were highlighted by Lewis as key matters for consideration in choosing an appropriate outsourcing partner, emphasising that it is crucial to think beyond the packaging itself and appreciate that a successful relationship with an outsourcing partner is built on key ingredients of quality, service, knowledge, culture and cost.
An effective outsourcing contract can prove very useful for pharma companies, allowing them to concentrate on core competencies, reduce in-house regulatory burden, and off-load packaging during peak production periods (for example with seasonal products such as flu treatments) among other benefits.