Blister History

The History of Pharmaceutical Blister Packaging

This blog is a collaborative effort to document the development of pharmaceutical blister packaging from its inception at the beginning of the 1960s until today. Each post invites readers to comment – adding your stories, memories, and recollections to the blog and sharing insights with others. If you wish to contribute stories, adventures, or just plain information, please contact us by email.

The history is divided into four sections: blister packages, materials, and machines.

  • Blister Design: The blister package section looks at design of the actual packaging, beginning with the original Push-Through-Package (PTP), designed during the launching of contraceptives in the early 1960s, and continuing through today’s Child Resistant/Senior Friendly (CR/SF), anti-counterfeit, compliant and intelligent designs.
  • Materials: The section on materials begins with the development and early use of thermoformable PVC blisters sealed to aluminum foil lid stock. It traces the development of the various materials used in both the cavities or pockets and the lidding.
  • Machinery: The machinery section documents the development of blister machinery, tooling, and process technology used for pharmaceutical products. It is further divided into machines that use “platen” sealing and those that use “rotary” sealing.
  • Pioneers: 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.


There are a number of threads woven together in this history. The blog attempts to both document and understand the growth of “clusters” – geographic regions where suppliers came together to push technology forward. The posts document the interconnectedness of the supply chain – contract packagers, material suppliers, large and small pharmaceutical companies-  and how these connections spurred innovation. It also looks at how regional markets – once critically important in the development of blister packaging – are changing today to be both global and local at the same time.

The blog seeks to document the faces and people behind the development of blister packaging and lay a foundation for continuing progress in the future.

Blister Packaging
Blister packaging consists of several components that interact to accomplish the packaging of an oral solid dose medicine: the design of the blister and blister card, the materials that are used for the cavity or pocket and lidding, and the machines and tools that form the cavity or pocket, fill the product, and seal the lidding film to the blister.The design of the blister card is generally referred to as the “presentation” and deals with many “usability” concerns: the number of doses per blister package (1, 2, 7, 10, or more), the layout of the cavities or pockets, whether the package is child resistant and senior friendly, all are issues dealing with the “presentation” of the blister package. Blister presentations have continually changed and improved over the years. The history of those changes is a central chapter in this story.The first presentation combined two concepts:

  1. Push-Through-Package (PTP) consisting of a cavity or pocket and an aluminum lid. Here the presentation allowed the oral solid dose to be pushed through the foil lidding.
  2. Calendar Pack: the first PTP blister pack was also the first calendar pack (even though it is unclear who is the holder of that title). All three pioneer contraceptive blister packages (Anovlar®, Lyndiol® and Ortho Novum®) were PTP and included some kind of calendar mechanism to aid women in taking the contraceptive.

The development of various presentation designs illustrates two currents in blister packaging:

  1. Contract Packagers as a driving force for new designs and solutions
  2. Cooperation as a critical factor between material suppliers, machinery/tooling manufacturers, and the pharmaceutical company looking to package its product.


Early Blister Packages>>>

The packaging materials used in blister packaging make both the “cavities” or “pockets” to hold the product and the lidding used to hermetically seal the package. Materials are both polymeric and aluminum-based, and are usually referred to as the “formable” web and the “lidding” web. Many also refer to the formable web as the “bottom” web (because it is usually on the bottom during processing) and the lidding web as the “top” web (for the same reason).Materials used to “form” the cavities or pockets are usually based on either PVC or aluminum. The PVC structures can be “mono” (only PVC), or coated and/or laminated with barrier materials like PVdC, Aclar® (PCTFE), etc. Aluminum structures used to “form” the cavities or pockets are called by various names: CFF (cold formed foil), CFB (cold formed blisters) or Alu/Alu are the most common. It is a laminate structure of aluminum sandwiched typically between PVC and oriented polyamide (nylon) films.Lidding materials are primarily aluminum foil with heat seal lacquers and primers. Printing can occur either at the converters’ operation or online when the blister pack is produced.The use of terms like “flexible” and “rigid” is a source of much confusion. People in the pharmaceutical industry speak of any blister films as “flexible” because they make flexible packages. “Rigid” packages are items like bottles, jars, etc. Polymer people relate “flexible” and “rigid” to the “flexural modulus” of the material under consideration. PVC films are available that are either “flexible” (plasticizer is added to soften the material) and “rigid” (material that is not softened by the addition of a plasticizer). For the purposes of this site, blisters will be referred to as flexible films.

The materials section traces the development of these technologies, the people behind those developments, and the companies that drove the structures into the industry. Click on the Navigation bar on the right to read more about pharmaceutical blister packaging materials.

Learn more about blister materials >>>

Blister Machines
The story of the first blister machines for packaging is a fascinating brew of entrepreneurs, technology, design and designers, problems and problem solvers, pharmaceutical development, discovery and even the transition from national to global markets.The beginning of the 1960s saw pharmaceutical companies poised for rapid growth. Contraceptives were just coming out of the pipeline and many new products were in the pipeline. The regulatory framework that clearly marked the difference between “ethical” (via prescription) and “OTC” (over the counter) drugs was clear. Pharmaceutical companies were beginning to build marketing and commercial muscle to support the waiting discoveries in the pipeline.Pharmaceutical packaging until the contraceptive was simple and bland compared to food or consumer markets. Boxes and lid, tubes and strips, the thrust until the contraceptive was to project seriousness almost to the point of being staid.All of this was poised to change – and change it did with the launching of contraceptives.

Several threads run through this story: the type of sealing mechanism (platen or rotary) used in the machine, the national market where the machine was developed (Germany, Italy, the US, South America and the ROW (rest of the world), and whether the machine was designed for in-house use or for use by contract packagers. Even developments in blister materials impacted the development of blister machines.

The first pharmaceutical blister machines were developed in Germany. While Karl Klein did not get a patent for his VA1 machine, all indications are this is the pharmaceutical blister machine. Höfliger & Karg followed in 1964 with the Servac 150 and Uhlmann in 1965 with the KP1.

The story of these early developments follows>>>

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!



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