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Earlier this month the FDA announced a voluntary recall by a US manufacturer of children’s liquid cold medicine after dosing cups with incorrect markings were included in the packaging, prompting concerns about an accidental overdose. While both the company and the FDA acknowledged that the risk to consumers was small given the risk profile of the drug, when used in accordance with the labelled instructions, the faulty cups could lead to a child being given a larger than necessary dose.

Over the last few years co-packaged dosing cups, spoons and syringes have often been considered an assistive device rather than a component of a combination product (drug and device) to deliver the required medicament in a safe and effective manner. As combination products undergo stricter regulations and require additional design controls, classing these cups and spoons as assistive devices means that they escape such tight scrutiny – and this latest recall highlights the potential risk such an unregulated approach may harbour. Such examples could move the FDA to tacitly include these medications in a combination product submission approach, and this is already forcing companies whose core competency is the drug formulation and who currently source their delivery devices from a third party to ensure the device part of the product also meets user needs, recognising the part it plays in the product’s ultimate success.

From our experience in packaging innovation and user insight, we know that the user looks at this issue from a markedly different perspective than the cold syrup manufacturer. The user is trying to accomplish a different job - consume the product in a safe and effective manner – whereas the cold syrup manufacturer’s aim is to make sure the product arrives on shelves in a condition that’s suitable for purchase and consumption. To this end, the less intrusive the packaging materials are to this goal, the higher consumer satisfaction will be and you’ll arguably see better medication compliance as well.

Surely then, it makes sense for the design of the dosing cup to be considered; be it integration into the product lid, affordances to enable single-dose pouring accuracy, or even a retreat back to the ‘alligator’ medicine spoons of our childhoods to make the recipient of the dose actually want to open their mouth.

In the FMCG sector, packaging innovation is considered to be an important mechanism for differentiating a particular product against its competitors. We’re currently working with a FMCG client who wants to explore the sensory qualities of their product’s lid. Yes, just the lid. This may seem farfetched to apply to pharmaceutical products but in an era of personalised healthcare and a cutthroat generics market, we believe that consumers will begin to demand better experiences from such products beyond the core competency of the formulation, and beyond the core competency of the parent company.

At Cambridge Design Partnership, we work with our clients using a user-focused development process that spans the entire route to market, starting at the front end of the innovation process to identify unmet user needs, innovating around these needs through technical and product development, then ultimately transferring a market-leading solution to manufacture, keeping the user and their needs at the heart of the entire process.

The vertical integration of innovation we offer helps companies grow beyond their core competencies and fight what’s being called the ‘Stack Fallacy’. This concept strives to explain why such companies assume that their next successful product is merely an iteration on the current design instead of a completely new viewpoint of user wants and needs. 

We’re heading to Pharmapack in Paris next month to keep abreast of the hottest innovations in healthcare packaging, an area we’re expecting to see a lot of growth in coming months and years as pharmaceutical companies start to engage more with this user touchpoint.

Whether it’s tamper evidence or influencing dosing compliance, packaging is going to play a larger, more important role in the future, and we’re here to help you navigate the challenges or issues that this may present. Contact us by emailing or @JeremyKooyman and @uri_baruch on Twitter if you’d like to meet at Pharmapack.

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