8 game-changing medicine packaging design examples and why they work

medicine packaging design_header

The pharmaceutical packaging market was valued at a staggering $127 billion last year. With high demand and strict compliance regulations around packaging design, pharma companies are feeling the pressure to deliver cutting-edge medical containers.

While some industries focus on stunning graphic design elements and clever slogans, functionality, innovation, and user experience are the keywords for pharma package design. 

To inspire you, I’ve rounded up eight innovative medicine packaging design examples that are just what the doctor ordered.

1. Biomass plastic blister packaging for a more sustainable future

biomass plastic blister packaging

Source: Astellas Pharma 

Sustainability is the hottest packaging design trend on the planet. And this is a great example of it.

In 2021, Astellas Pharma Inc. introduced biomass-based plastics made from plant-derived materials as its main blister packages. This was a world first.

It may not be the most visually exciting drug packaging design on this list, but it’s a huge step forward for the industry.

Why it works

Producing safe and effective pharmaceutical packaging isn’t the only concern the industry faces. Research shows that the healthcare industry was responsible for at least 87,000 tons of waste during the global pandemic.

As a result, there’s a growing demand for sustainable medical packaging to offset the industry’s carbon footprint. This sustainable packaging delivers.

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2. Intelligent packaging design for better dosage control

Intelligent packaging design for better dosage control

Source: Hameln Pharma  

The key to great packaging design lies in its functionality, particularly in a heavily regulated industry like pharma. That’s why this intelligent design from Hameln Pharma stands out.

As healthcare professionals and pharma companies know, injectable medicines pose some risks when it comes to administering the correct dosage. The wrong dose could put patient safety at risk and lead to legal consequences.

This intelligent packaging design presents the medicine in single servings to make it easier for healthcare teams to administer the right amount of medicine.  

Why it works

This design was awarded the “Packaging Prize for Medicines” by the Federal Association of German Hospital Pharmacists. And for good reason.

It works because it listens to the needs of the end-user and solves a real problem. The packaging meets international compliance requirements and was designed in collaboration with clinical specialists to make sure it does what it’s supposed to.

Most importantly of all, it helps consumers use the product in the correct way to avoid potential risks.

⭐ Extra reading: The 11-step packaging design process 

3. Accessible messaging that empowers users

packaging with accessible messaging

Source: Lovely Package 

The pharmaceutical industry is known for using complex terminology. It’s not typically known for beautiful, color-pop designs.

Help Remedies is changing that with its clean and simple over-the-counter medicine packaging design that cuts through the jargon. To make its products as user-friendly as possible, its packaging focuses on the problem that the product will solve. For example, the band aids come in a pack that says, “Help, I have a blister”.

All of the packaging is made from recycled materials like pulp and bioplastic, earning it extra points for sustainability. 

In an interview with Lovely Package, the Help Remedies team spoke about why the brand chose these specific materials.

“Our packaging is made of molded paper pulp and a bioplastic made primarily of corn. We use these materials because they are interesting to look at, and they are compostable – which means one day, they might become part of a large tree. Maybe you can cut down that tree and make it into a speedboat.”

Why it works

Help Remedies has a clear mission: “making solving simple health issues simple”. And its packaging design delivers.

It works because it’s designed for humans (who hasn’t Googled their symptoms?), and it empowers them to make decisions about their health by using simple language. 

On top of all that, the design is modern, unique, and just plain smart.  For example, on the back of each package, you can find some context about the product written in layman’s terms. I love the tongue-in-cheek tone.

packaging with accessible messaging 2

4. Customer-first designs for a better experience

Customer-first design packaging

Source: Aleve

Your product and its packaging should be all about your customer. Who are they? What do they need? How can you help them?

Aleve did this perfectly when it came out with a medicine bottle design with an easy-open arthritis cap. It’s a great example of knowing your audience and delivering what they need.

Of course, not all customers will want the easy-open bottle (particularly those with kids). So Aleve differentiates it with a bright red cap. That way, it’s easy to spot in the medicine cabinet or on the drugstore shelves.​​

Why it works

Aleve’s easy-open cap is successful because it caters to its target audience. By listening to the pain points they have and addressing them, the brand sets its product apart from the competition and adds real value to its customers’ lives.

5. Smart pill bottles for addictive medication

Smart pill bottle

One of the biggest challenges in the pharmaceutical industry is the misuse of prescription drugs. The US is facing a national opioid epidemic, with millions of people suffering from addiction to prescription drugs.

The PillSafe® medicine bottle is designed to protect patients by controlling the distribution of prescription pills, increasing dosage safety, and reducing drug misuse. A pharmacist puts the pills into the container, closes the lid, and programs the bottle to deliver the set dosage on the schedule advised by the doctor. 

Every bottle has a three-digit access code that the patient must enter to get the medication at the time intervals set by the medical professional. Then, the patient presses the lid and rotates it to get the pill. Once they do this, the device locks and the timer restarts. 

Why it works

This packaging design answers a very real crisis the industry is facing and could potentially save lives. 

It was designed by doctors with compliance and consumer health in mind. According to the co-founder of PillSafe, Dr. John Barr, “PillSafe aspires to protect patients and provide a safer way to deliver medication in the healthcare and drug manufacturing industries.”

He goes on to say, “We firmly believe that every pill that stays within the confines of our system is a life potentially saved from drug abuse.”

6. Post-consumer plastics for more planet-friendly dispensers

Post-consumer plastics packaging

Source: Coradin

This sleek GREENIS® Refill dispenser from Coradin has been praised for its environmentally-friendly design.

Made from 75% post-consumer plastic, the dispenser is designed to dispense creams and serums accurately.

Why it works

The design is intuitive, offering consumers enhanced ergonomics and distribution resistance. This can make it easier to administer skincare treatments.

Of course, its impressive use of sustainable materials and clean branding contribute to the overall success of this dispenser.

7. Optimized implant packaging for easy opening

Optimized implant packaging

Source: HealthcarePackaging

At first glance, this implant package from MULTIVAC Export AG and Stryker GmbH looks pretty run-of-the-mill. But for medical professionals, it’s been a game-changer. It even won a prize at the 2024 Worldstar Pharma and Medical Awards.

The optimized implant packaging is designed so that healthcare workers can quickly and hygienically handle products, meeting international safety standards. For instance, it features a curved seal for rapid unpacking.

Thanks to automated production, manufacturers can create the packaging at five times the speed of manual methods. As a result, it streamlines manufacturing processes and reduces the risk of human error.

Why it works

Like other examples on this list, this design is a winner because it solves actual problems the end user faces. Simple yet clever design choices enhance the safety, comfort, and efficiency of its consumers (hospital staff). 

Another big plus is that the system also works for medical items that used to be packaged in rigid film trays, reducing waste. 

8. Integrated instructions to reduce product misuse

Packaging with Integrated instructions

Source: World Packaging Organization

Now for another winner at the 2024 Worldstar Pharma and Medical Awards – the Japanese pharma company Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

Rather than putting a brochure with the product instructions on a separate piece of paper (that most consumers throw in the trash without reading), the company opted to add them to the inner side of the package.

Users open the box from the bottom so the usage instructions are clearly visible. 

Why it works

A widespread issue in the pharma industry is that consumers don’t read the package insert before taking the medication, leading to potentially dangerous product misuse. Kobayashi’s packaging design tackles this problem head-on.

On top of this, the design is applicable to a wide selection of pharmaceutical products and use cases.

In its entry application for the awards, Kobayashi said this about the design, “The removal of the insert has resulted in cost savings and reduced CO2 emissions.”

What makes an effective pharmaceutical packaging design?

So, what makes a pharmaceutical package design effective? It all begins with these four questions.

Let’s take a closer look.

1. Is it durable?

Pharmaceutical products and medical devices need durable, high-quality packaging to maintain their shelf life and protect them during transport and storage.  If your product is likely to be exposed to sunlight or other external factors, you’ll also need to consider extra protection like UV absorbers.

2. Is it secure?

Counterfeiting is a common issue for pharmaceutical companies. Counterfeit or low-quality products circulating the market puts public health at risk and can seriously tarnish your brand’s reputation.

As a result, tamper-evident and tech-based product packaging (think QR codes) are a must to clearly show when a product isn’t safe to use.

3. Is it compliant?

To safeguard public health and maintain quality, pharma companies have strict regulatory compliance requirements to meet. For instance, FDA regulations require clear labeling and product instructions. 

All pharmaceutical packaging must comply with these guidelines, maintaining a consistently high standard of quality. Failure to do so could result in legal action and large fines.

4. Is it sustainable?

As we’ve already seen, sustainable packaging is a growing concern in the pharmaceutical space. The industry faces pressure to replace traditional package materials, labels, and single-use plastics with more eco-friendly options.

Consumer demand for green packaging materials is higher than ever before, so companies that deliver have a distinct competitive advantage.

Three medical packaging design best practices

So, what have we learned from these cutting-edge pharmaceutical packaging design examples? Here are my top three takeaways. 

1. Design for your audience

Stunning typography, labeling, and visual elements are great. But the mark of a truly exceptional design (especially in pharma) is how well it solves your audience’s problems. If you want to be an award winner like many of the examples on this list, start by considering who you’re designing for and what they need.

2. Solve real problems

Once you understand your audience and their needs, the next step is to design a packaging solution that actually solves their pain points. 

Working with medical professionals or other end users throughout the design process, along with thorough market research, will give you an edge here.

3. Streamline the packaging approval process

Your package design needs to meet local compliance requirements, ISO standards, and any other relevant regulations. 

The best way to make sure you’re staying compliant is by building an effective packaging review and approval process. You can achieve this by implementing pharmaceutical review software like Filestage.

For example, with Filestage, you can:

  • Leave in-context, annotated feedback directly on visual assets
  • Centralize all artwork and feedback in one unified platform
  • Create custom reviewer groups to make sure the right stakeholders give feedback on packaging at the right stage of the process
  • Easily manage content versions so that everyone is working off the most up-to-date iteration
  • Use side-by-side version compare to visualize changes to your packaging and spot errors (our AI tool helps you flag inconsistencies)
  • Maintain project-level visibility of the pharma content approval process
Pharma packaging compare versions

💡 Bonus read: How pharma companies use Filestage for more efficient MLR review management

Streamline your medicine packaging design review process with Filestage

There’s a lot to consider in the medicine packaging design process. Toeing the line between innovation and compliance can be tricky for pharmaceutical companies, especially with the added demand for sustainable materials.

A robust artwork approval process can help you meet compliance requirements while still pushing the boundaries of innovation. 

If you’re looking for a way to improve your pharma packaging approval process, Filestage can help. Start your free seven-day trial today.