Do Medications Always Come in Bottles? Types, Colors, Why, the Future

Posted July 23, 2019 by Prescription Hope - See Editorial Guidelines(Last Updated On: April 27, 2023)

Ever wondered why your medicine comes in bottles? When our prescriptions are filled, our medication is often presented in many different kinds of packages. In this article, we’ll explore how bottles are used to hold pharmaceuticals, the different kinds of materials used in manufacturing medicine bottles, how they’re made and other types of packaging commonly used – and also touch on the future of medication packaging.

Do Medications always come in Bottles? Different types of medications require different packaging. There are a variety of packages which include bottles and blister packs. Bottles are generally used for liquid drugs, tablets, and capsules. Both Glass and plastic bottles can be used for storing pharmaceuticals.

Let’s take a closer look below at how bottles are used for many types of medications.

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What Prescription Bottles Are Made Of

Glass is one of the methods used for containing medications. Glass is perfect for this kind of use because it doesn’t bend or move and also provides a perfect barrier against exposure. Bottles are used for:

  • Liquid pharmaceuticals
  • Tablets in some cases
  • Capsules in some cases

During the 19th Century, the first prescription bottles were introduced. At this time and ongoing into the 20th century, they were known as ‘medicinal bottles’.

Since this time, literally, thousands of different bottles have been manufactured. The very first design was in the shape of a rectangle, with indented panels and made of glass. from 7.87 inches to 9.84 inches, or 20 to 25cm long and was used for practically all medications.

There’s a selection of plastic bottles which are also used by drug companies and also by your local pharmacist, we will look a little more closely at plastic bottles later on in this article.

Now we’ve discovered the first prescription bottle was made of glass and rectangle in shape, you might be wondering what kind of shapes the bottles were traditionally made in. Let’s take a closer look below.

  • Square – although the rectangular shaped prescription bottles were the most common, square-shaped bottles were also utilized amongst drug stores. The most common type of square glass bottle was called ‘French square’. These bottles had beveled edges and a beveled square cross on them.
  • Rectangularthese rectangular style bottles were blown by mouth as was other traditional glassware of the time. They were used from as long ago as 1870’s right through to 1920. These prescriptions bottles were perfectly rectangular, with the middle cross-section usually measuring between 1.57 inches, 1.97 inches, (4-5 centimeters). This design of the bottle is often known as ‘Blake Style’.
  • OvalThe most common kind of oval prescription bottle is the ‘Philadelphia oval’. After square and rectangular styles, this began to increase in popularity. This style of bottles has a flattened front panel with its other sides and back in a more rounded finish.
  • Cylindrical/roundthis kind of shaped prescription bottle historically was widely used by the pharmaceutical industry, although less than square and rectangular shaped glass bottles.

Now we understand most of the early prescription bottles were glass in a variety of shapes, let’s look at what is happening most commonly today with your prescription bottle.

Modern Prescription Bottles

medication bottles

With the costs involved in glass bottle production, it’s more common in modern pharmaceutical companies and your local pharmacist to use plastic bottles. They’re usually shaped like a cylinder and are quite small for the most efficient storage.

You will find your bottles are labeled with:

  • Name of medication
  • Patient’s name
  • Production date
  • Expiration date

The most common companies who distribute modern prescription bottles are:

  • Costco
  • CVS
  • Caremark
  • Target Corporation
  • Walmart

Now let’s take a look at what modern plastic prescription bottles are made of.

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What Are Plastic Medicine Bottles Made Of?

Generally, prescription bottles are made of polypropylene. This a specific plastic which is used in much of our food manufacturing and is often sometimes used to make fabrics and other household products such as roof membranes and carpets.

Plastic prescription bottles, and the more traditional glass bottles, are usually colored – so let’s take a look below as to why they’re colored.

Why Are Prescription Bottles Colored?

prescription bottle

Your prescription often needs to be protected against light, specifically ultraviolet light which can cause a reaction in your meds by a photochemical reaction. This chemical reaction can cause your prescription to significantly deteriorate if not protected.

The most commonly used color for your prescription bottle is orange or amber. The reason why drug companies favor this color is that it’s cheap to produce and provides the maximum protection for prescription drugs.

What Colors Are Prescription Bottles?

Now we understand the most commonly used prescription bottle is orange or amber, let’s take a look at other colors you may come across while filling your prescription. Other common colors for prescription bottles are:

  • Clear – these are only used for prescriptions which don’t deteriorate in light
  • Blue
  • Dark brown
  • Green
  • Cobalt blue
  • Aqua
  • Dark green

Another topic around prescription bottles you may be wondering is can Pharmacists and drug companies simply add the prescription directly in a glass bottle after manufacture? Let’s discover this below.

What Happens to Glass Bottles Before Storing Medications in Them

To make glass completely safe and fit for storing drugs, glass packages go through a range of changes before it’s completely guaranteed that it will not be a danger to the patient.

The types of glass used is either NF or USP glass which is commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry and is subjected to a number of tests before it’s certified safe to be used in your prescription packaging. Interestingly, tests aren’t carried out on another packaging, including plastic trays.

These important tests include a water attack test which helps to work out the chemical resistance, this measures the strength of the glass and how it potentially may react with chemicals, such as the kind found in pharmaceutical products. A ‘powdered glass’ test may also be carried out, which will also discover the resistance of the glass when in contact with chemicals. This test will measure how much alkaline the glass contains and also measures how much of the following compounds are released.

  • Silicate
  • Borate
  • Sodium
  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Lead

Bottles are amongst the most common forms of packaging, so let’s take a look below at some other forms of packaging which are also often seen in your pharmacy.

Most Common Forms of Packaging

Listed below are the main types of packaging used most commonly for your prescription.

  • Water-soluble packaging  
  • Blister packaging 
  • Individual-wrap packages
  • Cartons
  • Pouches
  • Trays

Are There Any Standards to Follow for Pharmaceutical Packaging?

There are many standards in place to ensure customers health, safety, and well-being. Two of the most common are:

  • PSO9000: Pharmaceutical Packaging Materials Standard.
  • ISO9000: Quality Management Standard

During the manufacturing procedure, all packages undergo rigorous and thorough testing to ensure they fully meet the required standards. These regulatory standards are extremely tightly controlled and refer to sterility and cleanliness amongst other important requirements.

Although medications are still available in plastic containers, take a look below at changes which may be occurring soon.

How Pharmaceutical Packaging Is Set to Change

Though there is still a lack of any hard scientific facts to link plastic packaging to adverse effects on public consumption, many health experts are staunchly considering a ban on the use of plastic canisters, trays and all similar kinds of plastic packaging owing to negative effects on the health of the public consumer.

Health Adviser bodies worldwide are currently debating banning plastic bottles used for medications. Glass and other new types of packaging will be more favored as there’s a lower health hazard when using glass and other methods for prescription and drug packaging. Although some methods may make it harder to travel with medications, benefits are that there’s little or no risk currently associated with drug spoiling or becoming contaminated when glass and more modern forms of packaging are used and development continues.

Any companies who insist on using plastic packaging will soon be looking at stopping this usage for the long term. This is better – not only for the environment but also for the overall health and safety of patients.

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We hope this article has given you some insight into prescription bottles past and present, how that is set to change and a little bit more information on the other kinds of packaging available for your prescription.

If you’re having trouble affording any of the medications you’ve been prescribed, visit our home page to learn more about Prescription Hope’s medication access program, compare the costs of your current prescriptions, and see how we can help obtain your medications at a cheaper price. Fill out an application today and start receiving Brand-Name prescription medications at your doorstep. Call us at 1-877-296-HOPE (4673) to speak to one of our representatives, we’re always happy to see how we can help. Bringing Hope One Prescription At A Time.

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