Protection against moisture is critical for pharmaceutical stability, particularly for sensitive drugs, and out of BIRI's 350 different formulations, 45 require desiccant technology.
BIRI, the manufacturing arm of Boehringer Ingelheim and Roxane Laboratories, manufactures unit dose packaging tablets, capsules, and oral solutions for hospital pharmacies and home care use in Colombus, Ohio, and was looking for a way to avoid inconsistent desiccant packet lengths and punched hole irregularity between desiccant packets which caused significant downtime of its pharmaceutical packaging line.
Roxane was already using a silica gel based desiccant packet in its packaging line, but inconsistent packet lengths and variation in the punched holes between packets used for cutting registration caused difficulty when running on automatic dispensing machinery.
As the company's existing APA-2000 dispensing technology, also manufactured by Multisorb, operates in "fail safe" mode, it rejects out of length packets, avoiding cutting them open and contaminating the line.
However, frequent operator intervention to remove improperly manufactured packets from the dispenser resulted in significant downtime.
After evaluating available solutions, BIRI decided to make the switch to one-gram StripPax silica gel packets from Multisorb Technologies.
"Certain medications are prone to moisture-induced degradation," said Julie Rink, a BIRI packaging engineer.
"Without proper desiccation, pharmaceutical products can stick together, react with ambient moisture inside the package, or experience unwanted microbial activity - all of which result in reduced shelf life."
Initial conversations between Roxane and Multisorb took place in November 2004 at PACK EXPO International. By December of that year, the conversion to StripPax was complete, an approximate four-week turnaround time.
In combination with the APA-2000 dispenser, the switch to Multisorb StripPax helped increase line speeds from approximately 75 units per minute to almost 95 units per minute, an improvement of over 25 percent.
Downtime has also drastically improved, decreasing to nominal amounts.
The combination of increased speeds combined with the elimination of downtime has enabled an overall packaging efficiency improvement of 20 percent.
"The accuracy of indexing Multisorb's StripPax allows us to run higher quality products at faster speeds," said BIRI's manager of production maintenance Sascha Kellermann.
"We're planning to convert all products that require a desiccant to StripPax."
StripPax are compact, durable sorbent packets with high moisture adsorbing capacity, and take up limited space. The consistency of length and the translucent seal between desiccant packets provides for an accurate cut every time.
One StripPax sachet dropped into each bottle provides sufficient desiccation for BIRI's current bottle sizes, a dispensing technique referred to as a "single drop."
If a larger package size were developed, multiple drops would be considered for added protection against moisture degradation.
"Multisorb's technical knowledge is impressive, and they really have a vested interest in our satisfaction," said Rink.
"The team was able to help us reduce the quantity of desiccant we use, helping to further reduce costs."