Arthritis medication is too often packed in a pill strip (blister pack) that is not easy to open for people with this condition. Recent research by ReumaNederland shows that almost two-thirds (64%) of people with arthritis have difficulty opening their own medicines due to their limited hand function. In the case of a pill strip, as much as 71% have difficulty opening the packaging. This problem will only get worse now that the Europese Geneesmiddelen Agentschap has determined that a commonly used rheumatic medicine containing methotrexate (MTX) can no longer be supplied in a bottle. ReumaNederland has therefore entered into a collaboration with the University of Twente to develop a arthritis-friendly pill strip.
People with arthritis often have to deal with loss of hand function which makes seemingly easy actions, such as extracting a pill, a problem for them. The study shows that this is due to insufficient force in the fingers (69%), because it causes pain (48%) or because the material of the pill strip is too hard or stiff (48%).
Sija de Jong, Patient Interests manager at ReumaNederland confirms: ‘Many people with arthritis depend on their medication to participate in everyday life. You should at least be able to open your medication yourself and not need to rely on a tool or on someone else. Not being able to open medicines properly also has consequences for the therapeutic effect of the medicine, since it has greatest effect when used correctly and at the right time. Research shows that 1 in 10 people do not take their medication correctly or at all because of the difficult packaging. This is reason enough for us to work together with the University of Twente on a pill strip that people with arthritis can get open.’
Roland ten Klooster, Professor of Packaging Design and Management at the University of Twente (TechMed Centrum): ‘Based on what people with arthritis can do and how they deal with packaging, we want to devise, design and test concepts that they can open up. This will give people with arthritis better access to their own medicine.’
The design of a new pill strip must not only be user friendly, but also sustainable. The most commonly used packaging for medicines is the blister pack, which is very difficult to recycle. Accordingly, a coalition of partners from the medicines sector, ‘Duurzame Farmacie’ (Sustainable Pharmacy), comprising the VIG, Neprofarm, Bogin, and KNMP, has joined the collaboration. ‘Although user friendliness is the most important factor, this collaboration offers a great opportunity to tackle the two issues at once’, explains Brigit van Soest on behalf of the Duurzame Farmacie coalition.