Walmart expects positive impact from its shift to compliance packs
Lisa Pierce -- Packaging Digest, 3/1/2013 12:18:00 PM
CLARIFICATION, 6/18/13: In the March 2013 Industry Insights column, Ron Sasine, senior director of packaging, Private Brands, talked about Wal-Mart's shift to calendarized packaging in Walmart and Sam's Club pharmacies. One of the packages the company has identified as meeting its requirements is the Ecoslide-Rx, which was mentioned in the article. Sasine clarifies: "Ecoslide-Rx is but one of the acceptable options for calendarized packaging that we are using in our pharmacies. Other options that meet our standards are equally acceptable and are producing excellent results."
In fall 2012, Walmart announced it would be switching to compliance packaging in Walmart and Sam's Club pharmacies (www.packagingdigest.com/WalmartEcoslide). The new unit-dose packaging has now begun shipping to stores.
The pack chosen—the Ecoslide-Rx from Keystone Folding Box—offers large, easy-to-read type on all sides and clear, simple opening instructions. It's also stackable, easy to carry and earned the highest F=1 rating for child resistance from the Consumer Products Safety Commission. And, once the carton is opened, the integral blister pack offers easier-than usual push-through pill access.
Ron Sasine, Walmart's senior director of packaging, Private Brands, explains how this is a win-win for all involved.
Q: Why did Walmart opt to go with the EcoSlide Rx calendarized packaging?
A: Most of the medications in this style of packaging are used to treat chronic conditions, so adherence is critical to maintaining good results for patients and caregivers. The simple communication of this packaging style offers a demonstrable and clinically proven benefit over alternative packages.
Another key benefit to this type of packaging is its sustainability impact. By shifting from a non-recyclable, all-plastic format to a paperboard sleeve with a sliding blister, we'll take a significant amount of plastic out of the waste stream and replace it with a recyclable alternative. Consumers can take the paperboard sleeve and toss it right in their recycling bin with other paperboard cartons. And the plastic blisters which do enter the waste stream are much lighter than alternative plastic packages.
In addition, calendarized packaging generally does a better job of reducing the entry of drug residue into the waste stream, since medication packed in this style of packaging is generally taken in its entirety.
Q: What features about the packaging were most appealing and why?
A: Everything we have done in the area of packaging innovation for pharmaceuticals is designed to ensure child safety. And these new packages are easy to manage for patients, many of whom are senior citizens.
We're excited about the improved print capabilities that the paperboard offers, and we're using those capabilities to provide actual-size depictions of the medication, to color-code the packages by treatment class and to differentiate drug strength in a clear and concise fashion.
Q: What does it entail—internally and externally—to make the switch to this unit-dose pack in your pharmacies?
A: When a drug transitions from a conventional package or from another style of compliance package, that's usually the first thing a customer notices. Pharmacists then have the chance to confirm for the customer that the medication is indeed the proper compound and the correct strength and that the only difference is the package format. This gives the customer a chance to ask questions and have the pharmacist or pharmacy technician demonstrate how the package works and describe the benefits for the customer that will result from taking the medication as prescribed.
Behind the scenes, our pharmacy buyers work with drug suppliers and packaging companies to coordinate drug delivery, package production and filling line capacity so that the finished retail units are released into our distribution network and shipped to our thousands of pharmacy locations. We've been able to realize important shipping efficiencies and cost savings through this program as we have improved customer care. We'll certainly maintain conventional amber vials throughout our pharmacy network, but the trend toward compliance packaging is an important innovation that will help improve customer care.
Q: How do you expect the new package will affect sales?
A: Our pricing for prescriptions sold in calendarized packaging will not increase as a result of the packaging change. We do anticipate, however, that overall sales of medications sold in this style of packaging will increase, since customers have been proven to adhere more closely to their medication regimen when their drugs are disbursed in this method. The immediate benefit to customers is the positive impact on their health as they take their medications as prescribed. The secondary benefit to suppliers and retailers is the growth in sales that derive from improved compliance.
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