Vetter Pharma recently launched a major expansion at their secondary packaging facility in Ravensburg, Germany. The additional 32,000 square feet of packaging capacity is set to be completed within the next few years as the contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) looks to solve growing demands, both in the market and by customers, for complex packaging solutions. The expansion will include new fully-automated packaging lines, space for manual and semi-automated packaging processes, and assembly equipment for a wide variety of formats.
Specifically, the addition of new state-of-the-art assembly machines for pens and autoinjectors will allow Vetter to meet a majority of the growing market need for these systems. The goal for them is to become a one-stop shop from development to packaging and serialization.
Contract Pharma had the opportunity to speak with Vetter’s senior vice president of production and engineering, Bernd Stauss, about the evolving contract packaging market, and what the future could look like for it.
Contract Pharma: How has the contract packaging market evolved over the last ten years?
Bernd Stauss: Our experience has shown an increasing market demand for complex packaging solutions resulting from an increased demand for complex compounds such as biologics. There are many reasons for this development including the influence of social, economic, technological and political trends. Thanks to medical and technological research, people live longer today than they did twenty years ago. This has resulted in an expanding homecare market and growth in self-administration systems like pens and autoinjectors. Healthcare professionals and patients have a great need for safe, simple and convenient injection devices. Meeting the needs of the user, as well as the needs of the products is a major challenge that often requires complex, state of the art packaging.
Contract Pharma: What do you believe are the factors that are driving demand for contract packaging services? To what do you attribute the growth of this part of the outsourcing sector?
Bernd Stauss: We are continuously increasing our development support and aseptic manufacturing capacity. In doing so, we have identified a growing need for downstream resources such as secondary packaging capacity. Due to the significant complexity of their products, (bio)pharmaceutical companies are seeking a high level of expertise in the assembly and packaging of different devices. They are also seeking expertise in dealing with new regulations as well as numerous challenges to patient safety and drug counterfeiting, to name but a few.
Contract Pharma: What are the latest trends in pharmaceutical packaging and what opportunities do they bring to the industry?
Bernd Stauss: The complexity of development and manufacturing, as well as assembly and packaging processes in the injectable business segment is always increasing. Accordingly, pharma companies are looking for integrated solutions from their strategic CDMO partners over the entire product life cycle.
Packaging does not mean simply cartooning. It also involves printing, labeling and serialization. Drug counterfeiting has been a growing problem for years. It remains to be seen if serialization and track & trace efforts to help to fight this threat to patients’ safety will be successful. We do have measures to combat drug counterfeiting, but they require a high level of investment in programs, technology and expertise to support customers and meet the current regulatory requirements.
Contract Pharma: How do you see the future of contract packaging?
Bernd Stauss: The future of the secondary packaging, aseptic filling and visual inspection for end-use friendly devices that support patient convenience and compliance is steadily growing and will continue to do so. This growth is largely due to the increase in small batch sizes and highly complex products which, in turn, has created a growing demand for viable solutions. For example, Vetter manufactures a life-sustaining drug product that requires aseptic filling and visual inspection within a very short period of time. The product still needs to be packaged before the product is refrozen at -70 ° C. Without a highly-flexible overall process, meeting challenges of this nature would not be possible. Clearly, secondary packaging is an important step in the value chain of the CDMOs. If they are to be successful in the future market they must be well-prepared for the increase in complexity of challenges their customers face.
Bernd Stauss was appointed senior vice president production/engineering for Vetter in 2014. In this position he is responsible for all production at Vetter sites as well as engineering, technical
project management and technical services/EHS. Mr. Stauss joined Vetter in 1994 as a manager for validation. He later moved to Vetter’s Langenargen plant in 1996 as a manager of engineering, and in 2002 was elevated to head of production/engineering. In 2003, Mr. Stauss was promoted to the position of vice president engineering and in 2007, vice president production/engineering.