Since the Industrial Revolution, businesses have always looked for ways to improve processes and efficiency to provide more well-rounded services. The end game has always been successful ventures and profitability and the development of unit dose medications is no different. In this case, the venture is patient care. The ultimate mission of hospitals and medical facilities across the nation is to provide superior patient care, to improve the health of the community, and to make a little money while doing so. One way the pharmaceutical industry is maximizing its efforts for the greater good of patients’ wellbeing is developing unit dose packaging. Unit dose medication comes in individually barcoded and labeled oral solids or liquids in single dose packaging. This packaging most commonly comes in the form of blister packs, cups, tubes, pre-filled IV/oral syringes, vials or ampules.

Hospital pharmacies have many options for purchasing, packaging, and storing prescription medications. Oral solid and liquid pharmaceuticals can be purchased in bulk and either repackaged in-house with a machine or outsourced to a third-party repackaging service, or it can be purchased in unit dose form. There are many benefits of purchasing medications in unit dose form including enhanced patient care, safety, and efficiency, as well as minimizing pharmacy expenses. The pharmacy staff and the nursing staff work together to ensure the correct patient receives the correct medication at the correct time each day. The pharmacy buyer’s job is to make sure the medication comes at the right price.

Ultimately, each health system decides their preference, but purchasing in bulk and repackaging in-house comes at a cost. Not only must the health system invest in the required packaging machinery, which can cost up to $20,000 for liquid unit dose machines with an annual maintenance contract (Falkenholm, n.d.), but they also must train an employee to operate the machinery and incur associated labor costs. This also pulls that pharmacy employee away from daily operations and patient care. Manually repackaging medications is time consuming and puts the facility at risk of human error. Outsourcing your unit dose packaging comes with its own set of challenges. Management of the third-party vendor is time consuming, there can be lengthy turnaround times and even delays associated with shipping. Not to mention the excess cost and expenses.

When medications are purchased in unit dose form, they are easy to track from manufacturer to patient bedside, there is less risk for drug diversion, patients are more likely to comply with their treatment plan, and the pharmacy has much less associated risk.  The Drug Supply Chain Security Act of 2013 required manufacturers and packagers to have a label with a unique barcode on each dose and each package (Pharmaceutical Commerce, 2016). If you purchase in bulk, you are more likely to lose track of individual doses or have miscounts during inventory checks. Opioids are prone to abuse and diversion, but unit dose packages make it more difficult for loss and miscount. Insurers and pharmacy benefit managers aim to minimize the cost of healthcare with unit dose packaging. Smaller packaging sizes based on usage reduces the risk of waste. With patients being more compliant with their medication regimen, their illness progression should be slowed, and the number of subsequent visits should be reduced.

AvKARE specializes in 20-, 30- and 50-count unit dose packages to match demand and reduce unnecessary inventory and waste. As one of the nation’s leading unit dose providers, available through McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal, Morris + Dickson and (soon to be) R&S Northeast, we pride ourselves on highest quality and cost-effective products to enhance the patient experience. Our partnerships with Group Purchasing Organizations and opportunities through Open Market Sourcing allows us to offer a diverse portfolio of oral solid, ointment and liquid generics.

Learn more at www.avkare.com.

References

Pharmaceutical Commerce (2016, May 10). Brand enhancement and safety with unit-dose packaging. Retrieved August 13, 2020, from https://pharmaceuticalcommerce.com/manufacturing-and-packaging/brand-enhancement-safety-unit-dose-packaging/

Falkenholm, J. (n.d.) Liquid Unit Dose Packaging Machines. Retrieved August 13, 2020, from https://www.pppmag.com/article_print.php?id=410