New standard will lead to redesign of kids’ medicine

Packaging designers are divided over how the industry should respond to Government plans to toughen safety standards for children’s medicines.

The Department of Health last week announced it intends to introduce a new British Standard on child resistant packaging for tablets, capsules and lozenges dispensed by non-reclosable containers. It would come into force in mid-2003 and designers and manufacturers will be responsible for delivering effective packaging solutions.

It is up to designers to make manufacturers aware of the issues surrounding safety standards, says Enterprise IG executive creative director Dave Brown, who has worked with Beechams’ cold and flu brands among others.

But Design Bridge Structure director Nick Verebelyi disagrees. ‘From a design perspective, it is notoriously difficult to keep abreast of developments in safety or recycling because of the weight of regulation. Clients generally have the expertise in those areas, and bring in designers [slightly later in the process],’ he says.

The standard, BS8404, will set out ‘what constitutes child resistance’, and will cover non-reclosable packaging such as blister and strip packs.

Brown warns that over-complicated packaging can endanger a brand’s values. ‘When you make something child proof, you automatically make it adult proof too. And if an adult has a less-than-perfect “experience” opening a product, they could be turned off the brand for good,’ he says.

Verebelyi agrees. ‘The danger [of introducing child safety precautions] is you can compromise usability of packs with people who are less dextrous.’ However, the latest change in safety standard provides a huge opportunity to rethink the packaging design of medicines, he says.

Packaging solutions do not have to be overly complex. The Department of Health suggests one way to improve the safety to children of such packaging is to attach self-adhesive covers to the foil on blister packs making it impossible to pop out the pill until the cover has been peeled back.

‘A classic solution is to introduce two simultaneous actions to a pack – such as pushing and twisting – to make opening more difficult. Or introducing two shapes that must be lined up before the pack is opened,’ Verebelyi says.

Ergo creative partner Simon John says the standard is an opportunity for designers and manufacturers to develop more unique packaging, ‘working with [the Government regulation], not against it’, he says.

‘Manufacturers need to look at how medicines are merchandised in-store, and contained at home,’ John says.

There are cost implications for any changes to packaging, says Brown. ‘The more complex the packaging, the higher the cost that must, ultimately, come from the consumer,’ he says.

Child-proof design can apply to any packaging sector, says Brown. ‘Child safety is a bigger issue than just pharmaceutical packaging. It applies to any product, from razors to matches. The pressure is on the parents and manufacturers,’ he says.

Health minister Lord Hunt, who unveiled the proposals, acknowledges that parents have a role to play. ‘While the first line of defence must always be to keep medicines out of sight and reach of children, child-resistant packaging represents an important additional safeguard.’

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