For years, Glaxo Wellcome had used generic 30-cc high-density polyethylene pharmaceutical bottles to hold 60 tablets of its prescription-only Zantac® medication.
But pharmacies receiving the container felt it was too small to accept their house label. So most of them would empty the bottle and replace it with a standard pharmaceutical vial that they could then label. Pharmacists didn't care for this process and neither did Glaxo Wellcome. "Their vials have no liner no moisture barrier nothing" says D. Bruce Cohen Glaxo Wellcome's director of packaging technology. "With our bottle/closure/liner combination we know we've provided the required moisture protection over the life of the product." Glaxo Wellcome solved the problem by devising a two-in-one container consisting of an inner 30-cc container that's permanently sealed inside an 80-cc outer shell with deadspace in between. The two-in-one bottle is dubbed Cameo® by its manufacturer Drug Plastics (Boyertown PA) which co-invented the patented container with Glaxo Wellcome two years ago. The solution works well: pharmacists can now affix their labels to the larger outer container Glaxo Wellcome gets its needed moisture protection and everyone's happy. But wait a minute. Why not fill small counts directly into a standard 80-cc container? "Sure we could do that" counters Cohen. "But pharmacists are uncomfortable with it. If you dispense that to a customer they're going to ask some questions like why are you giving me this bottle if it's empty? You're putting out a rattle basically." Adding cotton to occupy the empty space wasn't an option. That would have meant two additional years for a new FDA approval since the cotton would be considered an additive under the agency's rules. "This [bottle] allowed us to get on the market very quickly" says Cohen. Manufacturing a secret Neither Glaxo Wellcome nor Drug Plastics will reveal much about how the Cameo container is manufactured. What is known is that the outer and inner containers are injection-molded separately. The inner is then mechanically inserted into the outer bottle and permanently joined at the neck via Drug Plastics' proprietary process. The trick was to figure out how to join the two containers "without distorting or altering the finish or functionality of the outside package" says Drug Plastics' Tom Siak. No adhesives or dissimilar materials are used since that would introduce a new additive to the package requiring FDA approval. Glaxo Wellcome allows other pharmaceutical companies to use the container for non-competing products. There is no royalty or licensing fee. For environmentalists who may get huffy about the extra plastic going into the waste stream Cohen cautions critics to remember that previously the 30-cc containers and the pharmacists' vials were both going into the waste stream. With this solution he argues there's actually a decrease of plastic going into the waste stream. Regarding the economics of the bottle Cohen preferred to stay away from specifics. "There is an increase of the total cost of the package there's no doubt. Not only did we increase the amount of plastic but we also increased the storage space shelf space in warehouse corrugated case size etc." However there were some savings that accompanied the change. Previously each 30-cc bottle was packed in a secondary carton; 12 cartons were overwrapped in a paperboard tray and 12 trays were packed to a case. The 80/30-cc bottles by contrast are bulk-packed directly into the case. "We eliminated the cartons trays and overwrap to get that trash out of the wholesalers' operation" says Cohen. Regardless of economics Cohen emphasizes that the container was devised to answer pharmacists' complaints. He says the new container saves them time and money since they no longer have to count out tablets nor are they required to use one of their own vials. "We helped the wholesalers out we helped out the retail pharmacists and I still think we helped out the ultimate patients out by giving them the best container possible for that product" says Cohen.