New impetus for ampoules

Even though they are often said to be on the decline, glass ampoules are still widely used to package injectable drugs. In emerging markets such as Asia, South America or Eastern Europe, the demand is even growing. Advanced fill & finish concepts offer new impetus, says expert Neus Ferré.

Time and again ampoules are regarded a relict of the past. What is your opinion on that?

Well, not quite. Glass ampoules have been used to package injectable drugs for more than 80 years, that’s true. However glass ampoules do still play a key role in the pharma industry, specially when it comes to basic drugs which are massively used, for example anesthetics, pain drugs and anti-inflammatories. Why? This type of packaging offers a safe, efficient and cost competitive way to support sustainability of existing healthcare systems in mature markets or to set up basic healthcare coverage in emerging ones. So we do see movement in this market – especially in manufacturing improvements focused on fill & finish operations.

What kind of improvements?

More drug manufacturers are introducing high speed filling lines for glass ampoules to achieve even higher yields. This is definitely a trend in such a competitive market. Others are looking for more flexible approaches in order to process smaller batches efficiently. In any case, if pharma companies want to leverage the full potential of such new filling line developments, they need to combine these with ampoules that come with high and stable dimensional quality, ideally backed up by 100% inspection for the key dimensions.

What kind of advantages do ampoules still offer and what’s SCHOTT take on this?

When using ampoules, there is only one type of material – glass – in contact with the drug, and it is easy to tell if the container closure integrity is intact. It protects the drug from being contaminated. Moreover, glass ampoules are a very cost efficient packaging material. The advent of new filling concepts underlines the fact that ampoules have gained new momentum. Thus, our team is in continuous contact with pharma companies and equipment vendors. We want to learn about their challenges when it comes to processing the ampoules on the filling lines. Our goal is to achieve a smooth interplay between equipment and packaging thus contributing to a safe and sustainable supply of drugs to the patients worldwide.

Neus Ferré studied at the Polytechnic University in Barcelona and at the RWTH Aachen and holds a diploma in telecommunication engineering. She joined SCHOTT in 2008 and worked as product manager for photovoltaic and later solar thermal energy. Since 2016 she has been part of the Pharmaceutical Systems division as Global Product Manager Ampoules.

August 25th, 2017


Rina Della Vecchia
Marketing & Communication
SCHOTT North America, Inc.