Contact Us On: 01773 820415 or Enquire Online

How to Choose Medical Packaging

Sterile pharmaceutical and medical packaging is essential to health services. And so are reliable, properly colour-coded hazardous waste bags. But choosing medical-grade polythene for healthcare packaging can be daunting, because this stuff is life and death. 

Quite literally.

In this post, we’ll run through the main things to consider and the specific requirements of medical packaging, plus the most common types to choose from. 


Flat lay photo of unpackaged medicines – various pills on an orange background.


Choosing medical packaging: 5 main things to consider

Some things in medical packaging are universal. For instance, virgin (brand new, non-recycled) packaging material is essential to mitigate the risks of contamination. Sterile packaging is also essential;medical equipment and pharmaceuticals are used in hospitals, surgical theatres, GP practices, dental practices, and care homes – where any kind of microbes on packaging cannot be tolerated. And generally, boxes used for medical packaging are double lined, to add an additional layer of moisture, dust and microbial protection to the contents.

Beside all this, there are five main things to consider when choosing medical packaging – and polythene is a high-performance solution in many cases.


  1. Product size and weight
  2. Sharps
  3. Product sensitivity
  4. Sterilisation
  5. Transit and storage


Size and weight

Using right-sized packaging offers better protection, and it also saves money. When choosing medical packaging, make sure your supplier is able to accommodate a proper fit that can withstand the weight of the product, without using excessive material.


Needles, blades or otherwise sharp medical implements may need multiple tiers of packaging to keep them from poking through the outer sterile seal (usually medical-grade polythene) or causing stick injuries. There are several ways to do this, but rigid plastic sleeves are most commonly used.

Product sensitivity

If the product is sensitive to light, moisture or temperature, then you need to consider a packaging system that can protect it. With medical polythene, additives are available for low temperature storage, UV light protection and visible light protection (opaque coloured polythene). Polythene, when fully sealed, offers a highly effective moisture barrier.

Sterile packaging

What kind of sterilisation method does the product require, and is a breathable substrate required? Polythene packaging can be wet and dry sterilised, and if a UV inhibitor additive is used, can be irradiated with ultraviolet light. It’s important to check that the packaging material is compatible with the product and won’t react chemically. Polythene is highly stable, but does react with some compounds (see a full list of compounds that react chemically with polythene).

Protection in transit and storage

Medical devices and equipment may be on standby for extended periods of time – so the packaging must provide as long a shelf-life as possible. But also, the distribution and transit method has to be considered as well. Will the product be shipped over air, land and sea? What kind of climate will it be entering? All of this stuff matters when you’re designing medical packaging – and it’s the sort of thing we have to consider for our medical packaging customers, too.

Medical packaging types

Medical equipment packaging can come in many forms; 


  • Composite blister packaging
  • Polythene film packaging
  • Laminated films
  • Small polythene bags.


Cardboard is often employed for outer packaging, and rigid plastics are commonly found in pharmaceutical packaging systems.

Read more about medical packaging systems in our other post – Saving Lives With Medical-Grade Polythene

Medical packaging is a complex field – but one that we’re well experienced in. It takes more than just input from hospital, care and pharmaceutical staff. It requires excellent knowledge of the packaging materials ecosystem to develop a solution that works; one that keeps costs down while never compromising on safety.

Medical-grade packaging systems

Get your medical-grade packaging from NPF Packaging. We’ll create a custom packaging system using sterile, medical-grade polythene for medical and pharmaceutical use. Check out our full range of packaging products.

Ready to order? Get a quote now, or call us on 01773 820415.