Pharmaceutical labels have to do a lot more than simply look pretty and make a good first impression on the shelf. The best packaging and labeling companies understand that pharma labels are not just an important way for customers to learn about the specific formulations of a product, but also serve to identify, protect and inform the consumer on how to safely use them.

That’s especially important in the pharmaceutical industry, where there are plenty of different types of adhesive labels on the market. And due to recent advances in technology, the trends in pharmaceutical labeling and packaging are changing faster than ever before. Here we explore the drivers behind these changes and the innovative emerging trends in pharma labeling & packaging that you should expect to see more of in the upcoming months and years.

What is driving the need for pharma packaging & labeling improvements?


In the product packaging world, “flexible packaging” has a very specific meaning. However, we’re using the term more figuratively here. Because pharmaceutical companies often distribute their products worldwide, this global distribution network has to accommodate varying health standards and regulations. Obviously, this can be a major challenge, hence the demand for flexible packaging and labeling companies.

Case in point: the lack of a global serialization standard. According to Pharmaceutical Online:

“A continuing challenge for drug manufacturers managing serialization is the navigation of different standards within markets. A single, global serialization standard continues to be an elusive moving target — even for neighboring markets that exhibit only slight differences. This challenge continues to fuel the need for flexible equipment. For manufacturers producing medicines for multiple countries on a single processing line, serialized data needs to vary accordingly.”

Improved formulations

Previously, many common pharmaceuticals were created using traditional small-molecule formulations; however, biologics have opened up an exciting new frontier. But already there have been some cases where these new drugs have interacted with packaging materials. That’s just one dramatic example of the ways that new drugs shape the future of pharmaceutical packaging. While there will always be a demand for traditional methods like printing adhesive labels, new types of packaging and labeling will evolve with the drugs they contain.

After all, new and improved formulations must be delivered safely to the consumer, and for some companies, this means investing in expanded content labels as a way to provide more in-depth information and ensure consumer safety. According to a 2012 report on pharmaceutical labeling and its role in customer safety published by International Pharmaceutical Industry, up to 31% of prescriptions never actually get collected, and 40% of those that do will not be taken as directed. As a result, the importance of correctly printing adhesive labels with expanded warnings and directions is self evident.

Smaller lead times

As recently as a few years ago, the pharmaceutical industry focused on bigger production lines to increase their productivity. Today, the industry may be moving in the opposite direction. With stricter regulations, personalized drugs, new serialization standards, and changing consumer behavior, there’s a growing need to focus on smaller batches and shorter lead times. This switch from the bigger factory model to more regionalized manufacturing has been shown to be especially beneficial for serving underdeveloped markets.

What are the benefits of improved pharmaceutical labeling & packaging?

Medications and other pharmaceuticals are integral parts of public health. When labeled and packaged correctly, they can help a patient manage a condition. And as these labels get more advanced, so can these treatments. The following are just some of the reasons why industry professionals are pushing for more advanced pharma packaging.

  • Accuracy: A study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that labeling and packaging issues cause 33% of all medication errors and 30% of resulting fatalities. When packages are accurate and easily read, these instances can decrease. This is why labeling companies are working to better communicate with today’s consumer.
  • Protection: Medication labels need to accurately communicate side effects and warnings. This is how patients can spot medical emergencies and physicians can better communicate risks. Better packaging can also prevent people from taking medications that belong to other people. This is especially important for elderly people and children.
  • Directed Use: Better adhesive label printing and design can also guide directed patient use for various medications. When patients do not take their medications at proper intervals and quantities, they can adversely affect their treatment plan. But if companies find innovative ways to present information, they can help prevent misuse.
  • Convenience: The average consumer wants convenient access to pharmaceutical information. Custom booklet labels and other modern techniques can give consumers more simple access to directions, ingredients, and other information. Physical packaging can also make it easier for people of all ages to obtain doses and deliver the medication.

Current Pharma Labeling Trends

The pharmaceutical industry plays an integral role in advancing the medical and health industry forward. The following are just some of the latest trends among pharmaceutical companies and pharma label manufacturers:

Track and Trace

Track and trace capabilities are now standard on a variety of custom pharmaceutical labels, and these serial numbers or barcodes offer a number of benefits. First, they make it easier for authorities to identify counterfeit medicine at any stage in the supply chain. They also give police officers new tools if controlled medicines end up on the black market. In recent years, pharmaceutical labeling companies have moved away from serial numbers, which can be predicted or faked, and towards smart barcodes or random serialization. Adhesive labels now carry barcodes and other trackable features, streamlining the shipping and distribution process and safeguarding the supply chain.

Counterfeiting Protection

To protect patients from counterfeit drugs, many companies are now including covert images, words, and verification strategies into their labels. These details, in addition to tamper-free labels, can prevent counterfeiters from distributing these medications.

Custom Extended Content Labels

Spatial efficiency is key in today’s packaging industry. Booklet labels take pharmaceutical label design to the next level, offering more information to patients in a contained space. These foldouts can provide the necessary information that was once only found in a separate insert, handout, or even online. This technology adds to the convenience of pharmaceutical packaging.


Now more than ever, pharma companies are producing drugs in smaller quantities, distributing as necessary, and offering personalized solutions. An estimated 31% of prescriptions never get collected and 40% of those that are collected are not taken as directed. But with a personalized approach to medicine and custom labels, physicians and companies can combat this issue. For instance, a label can be printed according to the language of the patient, or contain specific directions that apply only to certain groups.


The pharmaceutical industry is an essential part of the U.S. health system and overall human health. The more pharma professionals and pharmaceutical labeling companies innovate, the better these products will be. And it all starts with better labeling and packaging.

For more information about new pharmaceutical labeling techniques, contact Luminer today. Our professionals are happy to develop custom label solutions for your company’s needs, better serving your customers.