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“Self Expiring” Packaging Saves Lives by Providing a Visual Indication That Medicine Has Expired
Self Expiring is a packaging material for medicinal products that visually “expires” over a fixed period of time. Once a product has reached its expiry date, the packaging will graphically display a ‘not fit for consumption’ message using universally accepted danger signs in regional languages. This solution will prevent illegal sales of expired medicines and fatalities arising from their consumption.
The project’s intent was to come up with a packaging material that provides expiration information that isn’t dependent on language literacy, or finding the expiration date or reading of any kind. The team sought to make the packaging material itself as informative as the universally accepted symbols/signs such as the danger sign or traffic lights, which impart the same message across cultures.
The team’s design is informed by research of focused groups in India, like the elderly population, construction workers, slum dwellers, and kids between age 6-12. They realized that in many cases people were not aware of the concept of expiration of medicines. While in some cases the awareness of such a concept was limited, in many others the inability to find or read it on the packaging posed additional problems. The team found that in India medicinal strips had the expiration information stamped in one corner. In the event that these strips were sold as a single dose, the expiration information would be missing. In some cases it was observed the retailers sold expired medicines cheaper to earn a profit. The team sought out wanted a solution that could solve the problem, and raise awareness at all levels.
Their solution to the problem adapts an existing technology called visually changing paper. They used this technology to create a packaging material that will visually “expire” over a period of time. As part of the standard packaging material, this “timed color-image change” will be impervious to any of the issues with the current solution of printing the expiration date. The timing sequence will be initiated from the very point of packaging, and this will prevent retailers from illegally selling any expired medications for personal gain. The choice of color(s) and the design of the expiration pattern includes universally accepted signs of danger, which will be well understood – just like how traffic light signals are understood universally in a singular fashion. The time-controlled release of the expiration will not interfere with the original medicine label and information, and hence the user will not be misled into believing the medicine has expired before it actually does.
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