The Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on pharma and medical packaging solutions

In the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, readiness to respond fast and industry expertise have become paramount in making healthcare products available. The DS Smith Pharma Business Unit and a worldwide network of designers can help deliver faster innovative and sustainable packaging solutions to the healthcare industry, through both the traditional or e-commerce distribution channels.

Speed is key

Fast project development has been a game changer during the pandemic. Our packaging designers across DS Smith’s markets have been requested to provide crucial support in an accelerated mode. Among the different projects, we can find the development of urgent packaging concepts for life-saving products such as vaccines, diagnostics and hospital medical devices.

DS Smith’s established network of 700 designers at 270 plants, together with the PackRight and Impact Centre experts have been responding to key needs in today’s fast-paced environment. Our extensive resources and global presence enable us to quickly share successful packaging concepts across our network. This enables us to deliver a fast implementation with consistent quality across different countries. DS Smith’s customers can then benefit from the latest innovative ideas to increase speed of supply.

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Additionally, due to the current limitations for physical interactions, we have created virtual collaboration solutions for an unrivalled customer experience. DS Smith’s virtual tools ensure effective collaboration while physical meetings are not possible. Our designers have collaborated intensely with customers via live design sessions and virtual exchange platforms, using latest software systems (3D CAD, etc.) to create packaging concepts and designs and share instant feedback.

Centralized pharma and medical expertise

In hectic times like these, deep knowledge of the healthcare industry requirements is critical for fast project delivery. DS Smith has long responded to this need by creating a pharmaceutical and medical business unit to leverage expertise and manage projects globally. The company’s pharma experts bring innovative solutions to customers with focus on optimising resources, increasing productivity and reducing complexity.

The business unit as a key point of contact has proved successful during these last months. DS Smith’s Pharma and Medical Business Unit has helped the industry customers to keep a clear picture about their deliveries across several countries and coordinating backups if needed.

Sustainability and innovation at the heart of design

At DS Smith, sustainability is at the heart of what we do. We are committed to develop 360-degree circular strategies, from design to production and supply to recycling, creating positive impact packaging for our changing world.

DS Smith leads the way towards a more circular economy by designing out waste, creating solutions that minimise total supply chain impact and ensuring materials stay in productive use at end of life, either through reuse or recycling. Discover our new Now and Next Sustainability Strategy in detail.

Our innovative solutions include anti-counterfeit features and serialisation, multi-material and sustainable packaging for medical devices, sustainable temperature-controlled packaging. DS Smith has been working with customers on developing unique corrugated packaging reducing the spread of germs and bacteria.

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Focus on vaccines

The development timeline of the Covid-19 vaccine is unprecedented, and so will be the scale of its distribution. Due to the various vaccine types being developed, transport, storage and distribution requirements might vary from conventional to strict, involving temperatures potentially as low as -80°C. Vaccine manufacturers not only need to ramp up their production, they also have to secure worldwide packaging partners to protect their products along the potentially more complex supply chain than they are used to. DS Smith’s packaging solutions adapt easily to these different requirements and the performance needs. Vials can be placed in tailor-made corrugated trays with inserts and buffers to keep them secure during transport and handling. 


Vaccines will be indeed a very valuable cargo right after their release. Tamper evidence and anti-counterfeit features will help medical staff identify compromised products. Hence, packaging must also be easy to unpack and easy to use by the medical staff.


Currently there are about 250 Covid-19 vaccines in development. Once launched, they will have to be swiftly delivered worldwide into different climate zones. 

Focus on medical devices

Medical_device_hospital_ward.jpgVentilators used in ICU wards proved to be decisive in saving lives during the first wave of the pandemic and countries needed to rush to secure enough of them.

DS Smith’s packaging designers created bespoke multimaterial solutions for safe transport of ventilators and other medical devices. Multimaterial packaging combines wooden pallets with heavy duty corrugated packaging and buffers and is suitable for multiple use to transport the device for after sales service in case of needed repairs.

Fully recyclable solutions for medical devices are available as an alternative to plastic packaging. Our solutions are adapted to any size, complexity or logistic conditions of the product, be it small products such as oxygen masks or larger electronic devices such as hospital monitors.