Desirable features of a container and types of containers
- Pharmaceuticals are highly susceptible to degradation, and the quality of the pharmaceutical products directly affects their response and effectiveness. Therefore it is essential to ensure that the packaging of the material is suitable.
- The packaging of Pharmaceuticals is vital as it provides protection, helps in identification, improves the convenience in transporting, and provides information about the content without physically interfering with the product itself.
- Containers are objects which are used to store various types of Pharmaceutical products with or without contacting physically with the product.
There are many desirable properties of a container :
1) It should protect the contents from mechanical damage :
Every pharmaceutical product is susceptible to a mechanical hazard. A product may get damaged due to shaking during transportation (generally while transporting via land due to trucks or other vehicles). Therefore containers should protect the contents from this type of vibration. A container should also be capable of bearing the pressure and compressions applied to the pharmaceuticals during the handling of the contents during transportation. It should be shockproof and protect from abrasions that may cause damage to the product due to electrostatic damage to the materials. Also, a container should be able to protect the contents from piercing caused by sharp objects.
2) It should protect the contents from damages caused by the environment:
Various environmental factors affect the quality and efficiency of Pharmaceuticals. Variability in temperatures is a major cause of damage to various types of Pharmaceutical products. A container should help maintain the temperature and not cause any increase or decrease in the temperature under any conditions. It should be able to withstand high levels of humidity so that the packaging remains intact and keeps protecting the content from damage due to humidity. The containers should be able to protect against particular contamination. Some contents are photosensitive and get degraded on exposure to light. Special containers should be prepared for such kind of products. Some products, generally of organic origin, are susceptible to microbial degradation. A container should protect the contents from microbial attacks.
3) Should be elegant and appealing:
Apart from the pharmaceutical characteristics of the packaging material, the container should also have an aesthetic touch to it. A more elegant look of a product makes it last more impression on the customer. The pharmaceutical market is very competitive, and therefore, the appearance of the product makes the first impression on the customer before the contents. Also, it should be more feasible for the customer to handle. It should be properly labeled and should provide sufficient information. An ideal container should be inert towards the material stored in it. It should withstand temperature and humidity changes. It should not chemically or physically interact with the product. A container should provide stability to the contents. It should be non-toxic and should withstand wear and tear against environmental damages and general handling.
Types of containers
Containers can be classified into the following types based on their utility:
1. Airtight containers
These containers prevent the contents from dust, moisture, and air. These are also called hermetic containers. Airtight containers have air-tight sealing or closing, which prevents moisture entry in the packaging. These types are commonly used for materials that are prone to degradation in contact with air or moisture.
2. Light resistant containers
Some materials are light sensitive. They lose their characteristics on exposure to sunlight. Such types of materials are kept in light-resistant containers. They protect the contents from direct exposure to light. Many medicines are photosensitive and are stored in light-sensitive containers.
3. Multi-dose containers
These types of containers are used to allow the withdrawal of multiple doses from the same container without affecting the quality, purity, or strength of the pharmaceutical dosage. Such types of containers often contain multiple doses of the product. These are generally used for injectables.
4. Single-dose containers
These are special types of containers that are used for storing a single dose of the product. Parenteral products are generally stored in these types of containers. E.g., ampoules.
5. Well closed containers
These are the common types of containers used generally in the markets to hold the products easily and in a well-closed environment. They protect the contents from loss during transportation, storage, handling, and sale.
6. Aerosol containers
Aerosol containers are used to store aerosols. They are made up of suitable materials to withstand the pressure required to contain aerosols.
7. Child-proof containers
These types of containers are used to protect the children from hampering the contents. Sometimes, the products are harmful to the children and can cause a hazardous effect. To protect such products, they are fitted with closures that protect the package from the children.
Different types of containers are made up of different types of materials. The containers are made from the following types of materials :
Plastics are synthetic polymers having high molecular weight. Plastic containers are commonly used in the packaging of Pharmaceuticals.
There are two types :
i. Thermoplastics: which have the property of reshaping into other forms by heating and solidifying by cooling.
ii. Thermosets: which have the property of permanent shaping by heating to a certain temperature. They do not lose shape on heating.
Plastic containers are easy to produce. They are durable and flexible. They are highly resistant to breakage and are safe to use by customers.
Glass is a widely used material for the packaging of Pharmaceuticals. Many pharmaceutical products are used for oral and local administration. Glass bottles are usually the first choice for packaging.
Glass is basically made up of silicon dioxide with altered physicochemical properties obtained by adding oxides of sodium, magnesium, and iron. There are three types of glass:
i. Type I – borosilicate glass: It is also called neutral glass. It is a highly inert type of glass and has a high melting point.
ii. Type II – treated soda-lime glass: These are made by de-alkalizing. They are used to store alkali susceptible materials.
iii. Type III – regular soda-lime glass: These are untreated regular soda-lime glass containing high amounts of alkaline oxides. They are used to store solid dosage forms.
Mainly three metals are used for making containers using metals: Aluminum, Tin, and Lead.
Lead is poisonous and is therefore seldom used for selective purposes. Tin is the most inert material for packaging but is very costly. Aluminum is more reactive than tin but is cheap and easily available