The April 2022 biannual gathering of the European Sterile Barrier Association offered its industry professionals business-as-usual – familiar discussions of healthcare trends, sterile barrier packaging issues, and group work on a member project, yet there was also a sense of reward and nostalgia about. Indeed, this meeting marked the 30th anniversary of the SBA, giving cause to celebrate the organization’s achievements amid the tasks at hand.
Oliver Healthcare Packaging sent three veteran innovators to participate:
Geoff Pavey, Technical Fellow
Jurgen Van Roosbroeck, Segment Leader Medical
Mandeep Sidhu, Managing Director EMEA
When asked for their thoughts on the SBA in light of its 30-year milestone, Pavey noted, “The SBA is an important resource for EU regulation updates and medical device packaging education.”
Van Roosbroeck added, “The SBA brings players together in the healthcare packaging industry, allowing for exchange on ideas. The discussions help improve quality standards and educate companies and end users on the products they work with every day.”
Sidhu agreed, commenting, “It holds great value for industry specialists, sharing thoughts and ideas on where we are going, and how to influence and enable the healthcare industry.”
ISSUES TO WATCH
On the serious work side of the event, two topics dominated the stage: healthcare packaging sustainability and major regulatory changes/impacts. Sustainability presentations addressed the latest on recycling and packaging waste. The consensus was that industry interest in eco-improvement is high, but, as Sidhu observed, “The bottom line of the discussion is that we don’t really understand sustainability and recyclability. We must re-evaluate. Everyone has ideas, but they’re not well defined yet. When we go deeper into the topic, it feels like there is not really a general understanding. This is something to pursue.”
Discussions on regulatory changes cited MDR/IVDR, EN-868 and ISO 11607 updates and harmonization progress as critical areas to watch. Pavey commented, “Currently, there is conflicting regulation between the MDR and the European Commission’s Packaging Directive expectations. The Packaging Directive is driving recycling content. Additionally, other objectives are being arbitrarily applied to medical device packaging that are often in conflict with the primary function to protect patient safety by maintaining the sterility of medical device(s) contained within. The SBA is actively seeking regulatory solutions and will be looking to publish a position paper to help address the issue.”
Sidhu added, “It’s complicated. Even having the UK outside the EU is interesting – will they have different rules? How would that work with EU regulations? There are many nuances.”
Van Roosbroeck summed up the symbiotic nature of the two initiatives, noting, “The largest challenge will be to align sustainability requirements with the EU commitments on recycling plastics. They are not mutually exclusive.”
Usability ramifications and educational needs for end users were also well-attended sessions on the program, showing that whether this event was celebratory or not, the SBA puts its commitment to sharing industry expertise ahead of all else.
A LOOK AHEAD
So, what are the SBA’s plans for the next 30 years? It was clear from sharing in these weighty conversations that the group’s leaders do not shy away from calling out the tough questions and exploring real solutions. One of their plans is to foster a global expansion of the SBA, welcoming new relationships with similar organizations in other countries. The goal of expanding their reach is to become the “go-to” organization and industry experts for all SBS developments. While the SBA already somewhat serves in this capacity, by expanding partnerships and voices, they feel they can more formally become a comprehensive center for guidance, advising, structuring and directing the sterile barrier packaging field around the world.
Congratulations on 30 years of industry excellence, European Sterile Barrier Association! Thank you for all you’ve accomplished and all you’ve committed to do in the years ahead. The healthcare packaging industry appreciates your guidance, collaboration and leadership.