Modern Medical Packaging and the Chicago Tylenol Murders


Clinical storage and distribution

Americans are being prescribed more medications than ever before. In fact, nearly half (48.5%) of Americans have used at least one prescription drug in the last 30 days. Logically so, the pharmaceutical industry is booming: in 2011, doctors and dispensaries provided 2.6 billion post-appointment prescription drugs, and in the same year, pharmacy and drug store sales in the United States totaled over $231 billion. With prescription drug demand on the rise and internet-based medical purchases becoming more common, pharmaceutical companies are constantly coming up with new methods to keep us and our families safe, namely through medical packaging techniques.
Even when it comes to over-the-counter medications, which some view as potentially less dangerous than prescription drugs, great pains are taken to ensure we are protected. Bottle packaging designs typically have several safeguards for cap options, including child safe, snap off, and twist off versions, in addition to safety seals on the interior. These liners and safety seals assure the consumer that the medicine inside has remained untouched by outside sources and has not been tampered with. Although these bottle packaging designs are ideal for keeping consumers safe, opening these medications can prove challenging even for adults!
But it’s only within the last 30+ years that pharmaceutical packaging companies have focused on tamper-resistant measures. The so-dubbed Chicago Tylenol murders of 1982 completely changed the way we receive our medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. Prior to the murders, Tylenol bottles were sold with a sole cotton ball beneath the cap. Unfortunately, seven people across the Chicago area unknowingly consumed cyanide-laced Tylenol tablets and died as a result. Because the bottles came from different drug stores and even different plants, police concluded that the perpetrator would take a bottle from the shelf, poison the pills, and put the bottle back without being caught. In fact, the killer was never caught, but the makers of Tylenol, Johnson and Johnson, took swift action to protect the public. They introduced some of the foil seals we see in our pharmaceutical and medical packaging today, and they promoted triple-seal packaging to ensure their medicines would be completely safe for consumption.
Today, medical packaging companies are expected to keep their customers safe from similar incidents through different types of bottle packaging designs, blister packaging, and pouch packaging for liquid products. Not only does medical blister packaging shield medications from damage during transit, but it also provides an extra layer for consumers to detect tampering and can be produced with child safe features to keep little ones safe. Bottle packaging services provide more safeguards than ever before and feature bar code printing for identification, and liquid products are often packaged in rip-and-tear pouches that can come equipped with child safe seals.
Although the Chicago Tylenol murders were horrific, they highlighted an important step that needed to be taken in the pharmaceutical industry: not only do the medications have to be safe for consumption, but they also need to be packaged in ways that protects the public. Luckily, advanced in bottle packaging designs and other types of medical packaging techniques provide assurance that your family’s medicines are safe from tampering and counterfeiting, and will contain only what’s on the label.