Victoria de la Torre, SCHOTT Pharma looking at a range of glass ampoules on a table
Published on Tuesday, April 25, 2023

How ampoules became the world’s most popular primary packaging for drugs

Ampoules have existed for more than 1,000 years and been used to store pharmaceutical solutions since the middle of the 19th century. The word “Ampoule” actually comes from the Latin “Ampulla”, which means bottle. But what exactly is an ampoule and how are they used today?

Historically, the name described a two-handed vessel used in the 3rd century to contain the blood of deceased martyrs, and there are records showing the existence of the “Holy Ampulla” holding oil for the coronation of French Monarchs in the 12th century. Glass ampoules were chosen to store liquids due to the many advantages of glass, including being non-porous and impermeable, among others.

These days, the pharma industry defines an ampoule as a hermetically sealed glass container used to store a solution ready to be used (in most cases through hypodermic injection). But did you know that ampoules were the first pharmaceutical container produced by SCHOTT?


SCHOTT Pharma and ampoules

The first recorded uses of pharmaceutical ampoules were around 1840, with the aim of storing chloroform, one of the first known anaesthetics. Four decades later, the French pharmacist Stanislas Limousin created the first hermetically sealed glass ampoule as a solution for the increasing number of injectable drugs that deteriorated or became contaminated during transportation.

The properties of FIOLAX® Type I glass were ideal for the production pharmaceutical packaging, and in 1923 SCHOTT manufactured its first glass ampoules. At that moment, SCHOTT Pharma was born.

Initially, SCHOTT Pharma’s ampoule production was limited to Germany until 1954, when Vitrofarma, a Brazilian manufacturer of glass tubes for pharmaceutical ampoules, became the first production site outside Germany. SCHOTT Pharma now has a global presence, selling billions of ampoules every year, manufactured at production sites in 10 countries.

The use of ampoules today

In 2021, 42% of all commercial injectable solutions worldwide were stored in glass ampoules. Owing to their numerous properties, they continue to be one of the preferred pharmaceutical containers. Made of 100% glass, ampoules are tamper safe and offer high chemical resistance and excellent extractable and leachable profiles. Since ampoules are hermetically sealed by melting, they also provide intrinsic container closure integrity.

Among other uses, ampoules are used for the safe storage of pain medication, sedatives, drugs for the treatment of heart and/or blood problems, vitamins, minerals, emergency drugs, nausea treatment, solutions to treat overdose, etc.
Black and white image of hands holding glass ampoule from 1923

In 1923, SCHOTT Pharma processed its FIOLAX® glass tubing into ampoules by hand.

  Black and white image of early SCHOTT Pharma glass ampoules processing equipment

SCHOTT Pharma quickly developed an automated process for manufacturing glass ampoules.

SCHOTT Pharma's range of ampoules

Today, SCHOTT Pharma offers a huge portfolio of glass ampoules.

100 years of ampoule expertise

SCHOTT Pharma offers an extensive portfolio of glass ampoules consisting of three main ampoule forms and a format range from 1-30 ml. This allows us to adapt to all our customers’ needs, simplifying their fill and finish process while decreasing their total cost of ownership.

Staying close to our motto “Because human health matters”, we not only ensure the high chemical stability of our ampoules to keep drug-container interaction to a minimum, but also offer an innovative solution to drug counterfeiting (Ampoules AC). SCHOTT Pharma´s ampoules easyOPC provides easier and safer opening, lowering the risk of injury to nurses and doctors while protecting the medicine inside.

If you would like to learn more about our drug container solutions. Please get in touch by filling out the contact form below.

Want to know more?

Whether you need more information or advice for a project, I would be delighted to talk to you.

Product Manager Ampoule Victoria de la Torre
Victoria de la Torre

Global Product Manager

Register for the latest news

Stay up to date with information about SCHOTT Pharma products and services by registering for our newsletter.

*Field is required

I agree that SCHOTT Pharma AG & Co. KGaA may send me e-mails with information on products and services of SCHOTT Pharma. My data will not be passed on to third parties. After registration, I can revoke my consent at any time at the SCHOTT Subscription Center following the link in each email footer.