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Drug stability is a topic many are discussing these days, with many firms trying to extend the time a drug can maintain its physical, chemical, microbial, and by extension therapeutic, properties.

Many consumers scoff at expiry dates placed on medication, mistakenly making the connection between the date and the product “going bad”, as with foodstuffs. In reality, the drug should not be used after the indicated date because the concentration of medication has decreased while stored and is no longer of therapeutic value. Taking the drug won’t cause harm, but it won’t help either. Today, firms are combating oxidation and moisture in pharma packaging in order to extend drug stability and ensure consumers receive effective medication after longer storage times.

Oxidation, as a redox reaction, refers to the loss of electrons in molecules, ions, or atoms. There are many ways to use redox reactions positively, but when referring to product shelf life, especially for pharmaceuticals or foods, oxidation is generally considered to affect products negatively. Though oxidation as a concept has grown to encompass any substance that can cause the loss of electrons, the most prevalent is still oxygen. When firms package products, one of the things they must take into account is how much oxygen will be in contact with their product and what they can do to block it to increase shelf life as well as ensure stability over time. By combining proper oxygen barrier materials to guard against oxidation with appropriate sorbent technology and better post-production testing, pharma firms are able to define clearly how long their products will remain viable on the shelf and in the home.


The OxySense firm, recently featured on Webpackaging, is dedicated to making sure that packaging, packing, and processing companies have the tools they need to detect oxygen levels in their products and combat excessive permeation. The primary solutions offered by OxySense are detection and analysis machines that give incredibly accurate readings on oxygen levels in oil, water, and air. The company has also launched a new system for detecting oxygen permeation and the oxygen transmission rate of films, bottles, and finished packages. Its OTR detection system is proving to be of immense benefit to firms that want to gauge accurately how long their products will remain effective in their packaging, thus allowing them to better determine expiry dates or make better decisions on selection.


Another firm in the space, Mocon has been offering oxygen testing machines as well as other detection equipment for nearly half a decade. Of particular interest to the pharma space, Mocon offers a number of solutions that more and more are becoming a necessity rather than a luxury due to stricter internal and external regulations. By combining the company’s permeation and barrier testing with such solutions as microbial detection, leak detection, and seal strength detection, a pharmaceutical company is fairly assured of shipping products that will enjoy lengthy shelf lives. Recently, the company created its new Rack-6 conditioning system for use with its popular Ox-Tran 2/61. Rather than having to spend days getting samples to a point of equilibrium, the new system uses a six-cell conditioning unit which enables packages to be brought to equilibrium offline before moving them to the Ox-Tran Model 2/61 for final test results.


Down under, firm Sud-Chemie now offers a number of solutions designed to combine desiccant and oxygen reduction needs. The firm’s sachet line include a number of items specifically designed to lower moisture and oxygen levels in pill and capsule bottle, rather than depend on the container requiring any special barrier control. With a full range of sachets available for a number of requirements, it’s one of the easiest ways for a company to reduce both moisture and oxygen in a small environment, and is perfect for both manual and automatic inclusion.


In Asia, Wapo (a long time member of Webpackaging), offers companies one of the most comprehensive range of flexible materials available for the pharma and food markets. The company’s material page outlines a number of flexibles and films that can be used for packaging, and rates each one based on its capacity to block oxygen and other gases. Each material offers detailed information on its properties as well as possible market uses and is worth looking at to see the latest innovative materials available.

Regardless of what a company’s specific oxygen management needs are, the only option that can’t be selected in today’s market is to ignore the importance of oxygen barriers.