Blister Pioneers & Innovators
The History of Pharmaceutical Blister Packaging Pioneers & Innovators
The history of pharmaceutical blister packaging is the story of various threads (the materials, technologies, and companies behind this package) that continue to weave together into new patterns even today. It is also the story of innovative individuals – people who have, over the past 5 decades, added their creative energy and the sweat of their brow to develop packages for medicines. This section offers you a chance to hear their stories – and to post your own recollections of adventures, trials and tribulations in the development of this technology.
Some of these innovators are no longer with us. Posting of these individual are marked with a small +RIP. If you wish to contact innovators still active today, please send a note to the editor who will gladly pass your request on to the individual.
Now – let’s look at the innovators!
Gerhard Meyer applied in March of 1950 for his first patent for a novel method of producing air-filled balls. At the same time he opened a factory in the industrial area called Radebeuler G. Meyer Plastics for manufacturing toys. Because of quality problems with existing suppliers, he built next door a calendering line for the production of PVC films. From 1953, this went by the name Myraplast (from Meyer Radebeul Plastic). Both companies grew, partly due to strong international demand.
As a result of successful exports, Meyer was threatened with expropriation by the DDR government. He transferred the toy company to his brother Horst Meyer (1906-1995). This operation continued under the name Plastolit.
Meyer, who was popularly called Igelit Meyer (“Plastic Meyer”), developed numerous international patents, including important steps in processing PVC. Finanlly, in 1958, Meyer was forced to accept a “voluntary” government involvement. In 1960 Meyer moved to West Germany. The Radebeul factory was gradually nationalized until 1972 and after the political change in the early 1990s transferred back completely worn out to the son of Gerhard Meyer. This closed (it was obsolete and in very poor condition) and the land and buildings were developed into an industrial park in which 2006 had eleven companies as tenants.
Many contend that Meyer, after crossing over to West Germany, first went to Hoechst to look for employment. Hoechst responded that they were looking for technical degreed people, and Meyer’s degree was commercial.
On September 18, 1962 Meyer started Myraplast Staufen, shortly afterward acquired by Aluisuisse. He then moved to Montebauer, where he and six others started the “plastic” part of Klöckner Werke – named Klöckner Pentaplast.
Ironically Hoechst’s decision not to hire Meyer led to the creation of its two major competitors: Staufen, which became EVC, INEOS, and is today Bilcare AG, and Klöckner Pentaplast. Eventually Pentaplast acquired Hoechst’s PVC film assets in an unusual twist of fate.
- HASSIA MACHINERY (HASSIA VERPACKUNGSMASCHINEN GMBH)
- HASSIA PACKAGING.
In 1961 Klein developed a vacuum forming machine that produced thermoformed packages for small portions of coffee and similar products. HASSIA’s first pharmaceutical application was in 1962 – a HASSIA VA1 machine which produced a peel-off blister for MELABON, an oblate capsule produced by Dr. Rentschler.
The Triangular Relationship (Hassia/Klöckner/Quandt-IWKA)
The story gets a bit complicated. Karl Klein and HASSIA continued to grow rapidly through the late 1960s, acquiring Wolkogon in Bielefeld (HASSIA II). By 1973 HASSIA experienced financial problems and in 1974 the German courts intervened. It appears that Klein sold the company to two separate companies at the same time. This caused no small amount of upgroard. The first sale, let’s call it HASSIA I, consisting of the original machinery group founded in Randstad, was sold to IWKA (Quandt), while the second sale, let’s call it HASSIA II, the Wolkogon Bielefeld operation, was sold to Klöckner Werke. Wolkogon was integrated into Klöckner Ferromatik Desma, the machinery division of Klöckner. Later on Klöckner bought Hänsel and formed a packaging machinery group including Wolkogon. To read the story in German, click here to go to Der Spiegel Issue 18 from 1974. Read the section below titled, “A Tale of Three Companies” for a translation of the article.
Sadly, the end of this story finds Klein in a sanatorium in Kissingen. Regardless, he was a key pioneer in the development of blister packaging.
September of 1973 found Harry van Beek working as Karl Klein’s personal assistant. In 1974 the company was acquired by Klöckner Werke. Shortly thereafter, in 1974, a pharmacist from the Elisabeth Hospital in Tilburg, Holland and a doctor from the St. Radbout Hospital in Nijmegen visited Harry van Beek in Hamont to speak about Unit Dose packaging in hospitals. The pharmacist and the doctor had received a grant of 1 million Dutch Guilders from the Government (a lot of money in that time) to develop a safe drug distribution system for hospitals. About half of the grant went to constructing the first Eenheids Afleverings System (EAS) Unit Dose machine. As far as is known this Proto Model is still running and the EAS went on to become an industry standard.
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