Following the path of prescription drugs: Unit dose v. In-house packaging

In the health care sector, few things are more important than ensuring that patients get the best care possible. This can come in many forms, including spending time with the patient to understand his or her needs, as well as prescribing the right medication when it's required.

In recent years, hospitals and pharmacies have increasingly seen the benefits of unit-dose medication, where pharmaceuticals are packaged according to their individual doses. This strategy has proven to be disruptive to many organizations that traditionally ordered bulk quantities of medicine and then repackaged these in-house. In an outsourced repackaging scenario, however, a third-party expert completes the repackaging process on behalf of pharmacy staff, ensuring that medication is in the correct doses, while freeing up pharmacists from this time-consuming task. This approach offers considerable benefits, not the least of which is cost savings. 

Today, we'll take a closer look at the path pharmaceuticals take in a unit-dose repackaged scenario, and how this approach brings considerably more benefits when compared to in-house repackaging.

In-house repackaging

First, it's important to understand the traditional strategy pharmacies have used in order to ensure that patients receive the right dose of medication. Before unit-dose packaging, pharmacies would purchase bulk quantities of medication directly from the manufacturer, which were not separated into individual quantities. From here, the pharmacy team would work to separate the medication from its bulk quantities and repackage it into unit does formats. This was done in-house, and proved to not only be very time-consuming for pharmacists, but was also more costly than many organizations realized.

"In order to combat rising drug costs, hospital pharmacists worked to adjust their purchasing strategies."

Enter unit-dose repackaging, a different and more efficient way of ensuring that patients receive the right amount of medicine, and that pharmacists and health care workers can spend more time on providing the best care possible.

The problem with in-house repackaging

Many pharmacies purchased bulk quantities of medication as a way to control budgets in the face of rising drug costs. However, as this medication does not come in unit dose format and isn't patient ready, there are additional costs and time-consuming processes involved. According to Safecor's infographic, "Catch-22: Buy medications in unit-dose or buy in bulk and repackage?," the price of medications has risen across the board. Since last year, generic drugs have increased nearly 3 percent. At the same time, the cost of specialty medications rose more than 9 percent, and branded pharmaceuticals became 14 percent more expensive than they were in the past. Additional in-house repackaging costs compound these rising drug costs, creating an increasingly problematic situation for pharmacies as they attempt to remain within their annual purchasing budget. 

In order to combat these rising drug costs, hospital pharmacists worked to adjust their purchasing strategies, which often led to in-house repackaging. However, there were several specialized processes and considerations here which often canceled out the price savings seen with bulk medication purchases:

  • When repackaging takes place under the pharmacy's own roof, specific equipment is required to ensure that quality standards are met. This translates to additional costs incurred by the pharmacy to ensure that medication is ready to be dispersed to patients. 
  • In-house repackaging also required increased labor on the part of the pharmacy team, which was now not only responsible for dispersing medication, but for packaging it into its correct doses as well. This requires additional time on the part of pharmacy staff which could otherwise be used to focus on patient care. 
  • In addition to quality standards, pharmacies also had to ensure that they were meeting the compliance rules put in place by regulatory firms in the health care industry. 

The solution: Unit-dose packaging from an expert partner

When pharmacists realized that self-packaging medicine ordered in bulk quantities wasn't as cost-efficient as they thought, a new solution emerged: third-party unit-dose packaging completed by an expert partner.

Repackaging bulk medication quantities in-house can be time consuming and expensive.
Repackaging bulk medication quantities in-house can be time consuming and expensive.

This strategy affords a number of benefits for the pharmacy and its team, as staff is no longer tasked with the time-consuming and expensive process of repackaging medication in-house. The pharmacy could still enjoy the cost-saving advantages of buying pharmaceuticals in large quantities. However, as opposed to separating this medicine into its individual doses in-house, the medication is sent off to a third-party expert like Safecor for repackaging.

These service providers leverage the latest, most advanced equipment for repackaging, ensuring that quality standards and compliance rules are met. At the same time, pharmacy staff can be sure that medication arrives in the correct individual doses, reducing the chances of error.

The Federal Drug Administration noted that unit-dose packaging has become increasingly popular with health care providers in recent years, particularly as providers seek to support safety standards from the time of purchase through the moment medication is dispensed to patients.

"The advantages of unit dose dispensing are that the drug is fully identifiable and the integrity of the dosage form is protected until the actual moment of administration," the FDA stated in a compliance policy guide. "If the drug is not used and the container is intact, the drug may be retrieved and re-dispensed without compromising its integrity."

In addition to boosted safety standards, third-party expert repackaging partners also help pharmacies enjoy reduced costs in terms of staffing, equipment and overall time spent. What's more, industry-leading providers like Safecor are fully equipped to repackage a wide rage of drug formats, including oral solids and liquids, Schedule II-V medications and robot-ready pharmaceuticals, ensuring your pharmacy always has access to unit-doses of preferred treatments.

To find out more about the path medication takes in a third-party repackaging scenario with a partner like Safecor, contact us today.