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Blister Packaging is Best for Solid Medication Dispensing and Adherence

Blister packaging, commonly referred to as multi-dose blisters, compliance packaging, bingo cards, DisPill®, Distrimedic, Manrex or ECO-PILL™ branded blister packages are the best way to safely dispense solid medications. They commonly hold between 5 and 15 medications per dose and are conveniently organized by time of day: morning, noon, evening and bedtime. Typically, each package contains 1 week supply of medications.

Complex medication regimens are difficult enough for millennials to handle, but for seniors they are near impossible. Blister packages have grown in popularity around the world because they simplify an otherwise complicated process. One blister package replaces up to 15 standard medication vials making it easy for a senior to take the right medications at the right time.

Pharmacists fill each package by placing each medication in the proper blister. For example: Pill A, which is taken 4 times daily, is placed in each of the 28 blisters. Pill B, taken only twice daily, is placed in the morning and bedtime blister. No capital investment is required for the pharmacist to use this packaging.

Once filled, each completed blister package is verified by a pharmacist and then sealed with a label containing all dated, medication details. Many even include an image of the patient to ensure compliance. Blister packaging is gaining popularity at most pharmacies, world-wide.

The blister packages are usually delivered to the senior at their home, their residence or long-term care facility. Those capable of self-managing medications, simply tear off the blister at the appropriate time, and take all their medications contained in 1 blister.

With up to 20% of hospital admissions due to medication non-adherence, blister packaging helps seniors stay on track and at home longer.

Assistive technologies

Most blister packages are supplied at low cost to the pharmacy, along with a filling kit to simplify the work the pharmacist must do to organize all the medications in the package. While these kits are convenient, two new assistive devices are available to further reduce the labor time and cost, as well as the validation that must be performed to certify correct dispensing.

Recently McKesson has developed a new product, BlistAssist. This product guides the pharmacist or technician though the manual process of filling a blister package by lighting up the blisters that need filling, once a medication has been selected and scanned. Images are captured and recorded and the pharmacist can validate complete blister packages on a remote tablet. The pharmacy not only reduces dosing errors, but also reduces labor cost by increasing productivity.

For the higher volume market, Synergy Medical has developed a large robotic system, SynMed®, capable of filling 55 doses per minute and 45 complete blister packages per hour. SynMed® manages all the operations, from prescription reception to blister-card preparation. The company is also known for integrating scanning and reference points at several production and verification stages, SynMed® ensures simple and thorough control.

Filling is one thing, consuming is another.

Patients needing assistance in taking their medications, opening blister packages, understanding complicated consumption guidelines, remembering when to take and forgetting when taken, now have the RxPense® device, from Medipense. The RxPense® makes it easy for seniors, chronic care patients, veterans and others to take the correct medications, on-time. It notifies caregivers when a dose is missed and allows authorized health care providers to review and monitor medication compliance, remotely. The device not only secures the medications (physically) it prevents patients of all ages from under or overdosing.

What about Strip (Pouch) Packaging?

Often viewed as a competitor to blister packaging, strip packaging usually involves a significant capital investment for machinery required to fill, print and heat seal the pouches. Ignoring the up-front costs which may pose a barrier to entry, the pouches themselves are convenient for those taking under 5 medications (limit per pouch) with the dexterity to tear open a pouch without spilling the contents. They are easy to transport, conveniently organized and sequentially dated. While there are difficulties in dealing with a skipped dose, they do offer significant advantages over manually taking medications from a vial. There are several good automated dispensers available for strip packaging, but most require the purchase of medications from a specific pharmacy.

Conclusion

Blister packaging is the best solid medication packaging solution, particularly for senior, chronic care patients, veterans or those with complex medication regimens. For Pharmacists, the low start-up costs, error-reduction and increased customer loyalty are enticing. For patients, the ease of taking pre-packaged, pre-organized medications, at no additional cost, is welcome. In Quebec alone, there are over 350,000 patients using this type of packaging, 5% of the population.

As our society continues to age, the need for blister packaging will grow. Patients who may have started with a single medication, single vial, may likely transition to pouch and then blister packaging as they age and the number and complexity of medications increase. Blister packaging is a big help.

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