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An open-and-shut case for reclosability

Pharmaceutical company Galderma Laboratories switches to a reclosable clamshell for its sample size of prescription topical medicines that's 35% cheaper than before.
FILED IN:  Package design  > Structural

The skin condition called "rosacea" is common. Because the success of some medications varies on a patient-to-patient basis physicians often rely on product samples for patient trial before writing prescriptions. As a result some pharmaceutical companies are trying to boost their return on investment by finding cost-effective ways to enhance sampling programs-and gain physician loyalty in the process.

One such company is Galderma Laboratories Inc. of Fort Worth TX. Last January Galderma introduced its MetroGel® and MetroCream(TM) rosacea treatment products in a reclosable thermoformed clamshell package.

In the past Galderma used a blister pack of polyvinyl chloride and paperboard for these products. The blister contained two 3-oz tubes-one of the gel and one of the cream along with four separate pieces of patient information. These samples were typically opened at the doctor's office so the doctor could explain usage to patients while watching for any possible side effects. The problem was that once opened the package was destroyed leaving the contents loose and making it difficult for the patient to transport them home.

In late '96 Galderma sought support from Placon (Madison WI) to engineer and manufacture a new secondary package. Placon suggested an updated clamshell that would include a "snap"-open and

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Says Joe Willis senior product manager at Galderma "Our primary objectives for the new package were to provide the same level of quality and education to the patient make it more user-friendly and realize a savings in cost."

The new package consists of a hinged clamshell thermoformed from 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate. Its depth of draw is roughly 1".

The clamshell accommodates a single custom pamphlet which combines all literature and offers additional surface area for graphics. Like the tube it's printed in blue to help reinforce brand identity. It also helps to hold the tube in place.

"Making a sample package with a reclosable feature is unique for the pharmaceutical industry" says Willis. "This feature is usually reserved for special promotions-not as a product sample offered on a year-round basis."

In addition to creating a functional package Galderma strived for a package that would allow physicians to distribute the samples to more patients.

"The intent of this new package is to provide a substantial professional sample kit that is sufficient and complete as a single unit" says Willis.

Cutting costs

Although Galderma initially sought out Placon to design and manufacture the clamshell the company soon contracted with Placon for assembly of the sample kit. By streamlining its operations through one supplier Galderma was able to recover start-up costs in the first 10 days of package production. The entire package is saving the company 35% compared to the old package says Willis.

Tubes are filled and capped by contract packager DPT Laboratories (San Antonio TX) and then shipped to Placon.


The modular system developed by Placon combines multiple functions into one high-speed process. Called the Placon 2000(TM) automated packaging assembly line system the PLC-driven system denests the clamshells and automatically inserts reading materials-now combined into a single pamphlet-into the clamshell at speeds of roughly 15 units/min.

To meet FDA regulations packages are labeled with the same identification numbers that appear on each product tube.

After Placon packages the product samples provided by Galderma they are returned for distribution throughout North America. The samples are then delivered personally to physicians by Galderma sales representatives.

"We are very pleased with the new product-sample packaging" says Willis. "Placon was very responsive to our needs and worked closely with our product design team to assure quality met our expectations."

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