Putting the Plus in Sanofi's new blister pack
Sanofi slides into the Italian market with its Maalox Plus antacid/anti-gas tablets, courtesy of a CUSTOM MACHINE THAT FORMS AND ASSEMBLES the patented blister pack.
Lisa McTigue Pierce -- Packaging Digest, 12/1/2011 3:29:00 AM
Sanofi is giving customers a little bit extra these days. The French drug maker added simethicone to its Maalox Plus heartburn relief product. This ingredient, which isn't in standard Maalox (hence the "Plus"), helps dissipate excess gas that can often accompany an episode of acid indigestion.
It's not just the product that is special, either. In September 2011, the company began selling the Maalox line extension in Italy, using a new blister pack design that combines a traditional thermoformed/foil-sealed blister and a patient information leaflet (PIL) together in a compact carton that has an engaging opening system.
Although slightly more expensive than the typical multi-count tablet bottle for similar antacid products, the unit-dose pack (which sells for about €3.30) offers something the bottle really doesn't: portability. The Maalox Plus pack is convenient to carry in a pocket or purse so consumers can have access to the medicine for instant relief whenever, wherever symptoms occur.
Then there's the fun factor: Consumers open the double-blister pack by pulling out a blister on one side, which automatically pushes the second blister out the opposite side—similar to how some children's interactive books work. It's somewhat like a teeter-totter, except it moves side-by-side instead of up-and-down.
Maalox Plus is one of four Sanofi products to use this slider design from Burgopak Healthcare & Technology, based in the U.K. The first product was its analgesic (pain reliever) Dolipranelib for the French OTC market, which launched in September 2010. Maalox in two flavors, Menthe and Citron, followed shortly thereafter, again in France. Maalox Plus is the company's first product to be launched into the Italian market using the Burgopak slider, introducing a whole new market of consumers to this innovative design.
The user-friendly package contains two thermoformed and foil-sealed blisters—each holding six tablets for a total count of 12—as well as an information booklet, all permanently contained in the carton, which is printed in the brand's yellow and orange colors. This keeps vital product information connected to the package throughout its use.
For prescription products, this design supports patient compliance in two ways, according to Burgopak:
• One, by keeping the information attached to the product, directions or warnings are available for review anytime and every time the medicine is taken.
• Two, consumers are likely to engage with the package more often because the opening mechanism is playful, and engagement encourages compliance. (Burgopak currently is working with another customer to collect data to support this "better compliance" claim.)
The secret to the pack's functionality is the slider band. Made of film that slides smoothly across the paperboard, this band wraps horizontally around the innermost panel of a wraparound sleeve. In the single-blister design, a paperboard card (with a leaflet already glued to it) is itself affixed at its left edge to the band. A filled blister is then glued at its left edge to the back side of the band. When you pull out the card to the right, it pulls the film band to the right and pushes the other blister out the left side.
The Burgopak slider is protected by international patents, including two in the United States, one in Europe, one in Japan and one in Australia.
It has won a number of awards over the years, including a prestigious Worldstar award in 2007 and a nomination for the President's Award in 2008, both from the World Packaging Organisation.
Senior friendly, the Burgopak Series is also F=1 rated for child resistance in the U.S. by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It can be produced in single- and double-blister designs, and even can contain two different products. All designs include PILs which are printed and supplied by CCL Label (Ashford) Ltd. in a pre-folded booklet format. Sizes range from 40 to 140mm long, 25 to 95mm wide and with 4, 8, 12, 16 or 24 pages.
The Burgopak slider design can be adapted easily to accommodate blisters, medical devices and starter kits for the pharmaceutical, healthcare, medical device and veterinary industries.
As mentioned earlier, this is a compact design, especially compared to other blister pack styles. Tim Bollans, sales and marketing assistant, Burgopak Healthcare & Technology, says, "As all the components are connected together, it reduces excessive space that you find in traditional pharmaceutical packaging. The pack keeps the blistered product and PIL plush against the outer carton. The compact nature of the Burgopak slider makes the packs more economical to ship from a logistical point of view, too."
The Maalox Plus carton measures 90 x 51.5 x 15.5mm. But Burgopak can tailor each package's shape and size based on a client's specific needs. Once the designs have been approved by the client, Burgopak sends them off to its manufacturing associates who co-pack the product.
Custom machine is plenty flexible
To automate production of the slider blister pack in adequate volumes, Burgopak partnered with Bosch Packaging Systems, chosen for its experience in feeding, product handling and film handling at high speed. Built by Bosch Packaging Systems in Switzerland, the custom-made Burgopak system assembles the separate components—blister, booklet and carton—to create a fully functional Burgopak slider pack.
The machine is designed in modules that can be used in various combinations to fulfill customer requirements. The system's footprint depends on the application and necessary upstream feeding equipment. However, Bollans says it is at the minimum 2.5m wide and 18m long.
It creates a variety of pack styles, such as child-resistant pack, single or double blister, pull-carton and/or inserts/booklets. It can handle pack sizes from 65 to 140mm in length, 46 to 102mm in width and 7 to 28mm in height, although each variant might have its own particular constraints.
Bosch uses pick-and-place technology, but not robotics. Andreas Schildknecht, product manager, pharma, of Bosch Packaging Systems (Switzerland), explains, "According to the low height of wallet-packs, it is not necessary to have a system that enables a big range for lifting. The system uses feeding-wheels to pick-and-place the components. This allows continuous-motion handling, as well as extended ‘place' time—such as to fix components during curing time of the glue."
Burgopak worked closely with Sanofi from initial pack design through automated production. The Maalox Plus package is assembled on the Bosch Burgopak machine at Brecon Pharmaceuticals, a Wales-based outsource service for the global pharmaceutical industry. The contract manufacturer, a member of the AmerisourceBergen Packaging Group, was the first company to install a Burgopak machine, in 2008.
A second Bosch-made Burgopak system is also up and running at RxPak, a McKesson Pharmaceutical division in Memphis, TN, to serve the North American market. Todd Philbrick, svp, packaging and business development at McKesson U.S. Pharmaceuticals, says about the partnership with Burgopak, "McKesson RxPak is excited for the opportunity to gain access to what we believe will be a differentiating technology in the U.S. pharmaceutical market."
Both Brecon and RxPak offer full contract packaging services at accredited facilities, including blister packing, "Burgopaking" and end-of-line operations.
At the Brecon plant, the Burgopak system creates a double-blister slider pack for Maalox Plus at speeds in excess of 150 packs per minute.
The six-station process starts with printed carton blanks being fed into the machine. A film band—the sliding mechanism and heart of the package—is attached through a patented process.
Bosch's Schildknecht says, "The most challenging issue is the sliding mechanism. For sure this is unique know-how of Bosch, and the devil is in the details. To give a rough overview—it is the right combination of packaging material, sealing and gluing technology, and process control."
Once the sliding band is in place, the carton blank is broken along its various creases to facilitate folding throughout the rest of the processes. Using pick-and-place technology—with placement accuracy of +/-0.5mm—the first filled blister is added to the band using highly aggressive glue. The carton then is folded, wrapping around the blister to contain it, and secured with more glue. This wrapping action presents the other side of the sliding band so the second component can be added in its proper position.
The next stage again uses pick-and-place to position the information leaflet onto the opposite side of the sliding band. Lastly, the second blister is placed onto the leaflet and then the carton is folded over to completely enclose all the components, sealed at key points with glue.
The Bosch Burgopak machine can produce a variety of Burgopak slider packs, as well as a range of standard blister packs. Innovations like this Maalox Plus product/package will help Sanofi secure a leading role among global pharmaceutical makers. According to life sciences market analysis firm EvaluatePharma Ltd., Sanofi is expected to become the No. 1 pharmaceutical manufacturer in 2012 and hold that position through 2016.
Bosch Packaging Systems, 919-413-3307. www.boschpackaging.com
Brecon Pharmaceuticals, +44 1497 820829. www.breconpharm.com
Burgopak Healthcare & Technology, +44 207 089 1950. www.burgopakhealthcare.com
CCL Label (Ashford) Ltd., +44 1233 503333. www.ccllabel.com
RxPak, McKesson, 901-255-8001. www.mckesson.com
OH, WHAT A RELIEF
Called a "relief alphabet," Braille uses raised dots to "write" letters and characters such as punctuation marks on paper, allowing blind or partially sighted people to "read" information using their fingertips.
As of January 2006, all packages of pharmaceutical products sold in the European Union must display Braille characters as required by the EU directive (2004/27/CE No). Sanofi has complied with the legislation by adding Braille to the front of blister pack cartons for its new Maalox Plus antacid/anti-gas product being sold in Italy. The debossed dots show up through the print so no additional space is taken up on the compact package.