New Drug-Formulation Method May Lead to Smaller Pills

New Drug Formulation Method for Smaller Pills

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MIT chemical engineers have actually designed a brand-new method to create hydrophobic drugs by turning them into a nanoemulsion, which can be put into a mold and dried into tablets. The nanoemulsion can likewise be utilized to form little particles, seen in the vials. Credit: Felice Frankel

Chemical engineers have actually discovered a method to pack more drug into a tablet, which might then be made smaller sized and much easier to swallow.

About 60 percent of drugs on the marketplace have hydrophobic particles as their active components. These drugs, which are not soluble in water, can be hard to create into tablets due to the fact that they require to be broken down into really little crystals in order to be taken in by the body.

A group of MIT chemical engineers has actually now designed an easier procedure for integrating hydrophobic drugs into tablets or other drug solutions such as pills and thin movies. Their method, which includes developing an emulsion of the drug and after that crystallizing it, permits a more effective dosage to be packed per tablet.

“This is very important because if we can achieve high drug loading, it means that we can make smaller dosages that still achieve the same therapeutic effect. This can greatly improve patient compliance because they just need to take a very small drug and it’s still very effective,” states Liang-Hsun Chen, an MIT college student and the lead author of the brand-new research study.

Patrick Doyle, the Robert T. Haslam Professor of Chemical Engineering, is the senior author of the paper, which was released on June 7, 2021, in Advanced Materials.


Most medications include an active component that is integrated with other substances called excipients, which assist to support the drug and control how it is launched in the body. The resulting tablets, pills, or movies are called solutions.

Currently, to produce solutions of hydrophobic drugs, pharmaceutical business utilize a procedure that needs crushing the substance to nanocrystals, which are much easier for human cells to soak up. These crystals are then combined with excipients. One excipient that is typically blended with hydrophobic drugs is methylcellulose, a substance stemmed from cellulose. Methylcellulose liquifies quickly in water, which assists drugs to be launched much faster in the body.

This technique is commonly utilized, however has numerous inadequacies, according to the MIT group. “The milling step is very time consuming and energy intensive, and the abrasive process can cause changes in active ingredient properties, which can undermine the therapeutic effects,” Chen states.

He and Doyle set out to come up with a more effective method to integrate hydrophobic drugs with methylcellulose, by forming an emulsion. Emulsions are mixes of oil beads suspended in water, such as the mix formed when an oil and vinegar salad dressing is shocked.

When these beads are on the scale of nanometers in size, this sort of mix is called a nanoemulsion. To produce their nanoemulsion, the scientists took a hydrophobic drug called fenofibrate, which is utilized to assist lower cholesterol, and liquified it in an oil called anisole. Then they integrated this oil stage with methylcellulose liquified in water, utilizing ultrasonication (acoustic wave) to produce nanoscale oil beads. Methylcellulose assists to keep the water and oil beads from separating once again due to the fact that it is amphiphilic, indicating that it can bind to both the oil beads and the water.

Once the emulsion is formed, the scientists can change it into a gel by leaking the liquid into a heated water bath. As each drop strikes the water, it strengthens within milliseconds. The scientists can manage the size of the particles by altering the size of idea that is utilized to leak the liquid into the water bath.

“The particle formation is nearly instantaneous, so everything that was in your liquid drop gets converted to a solid particle without any loss,” Doyle states. “After drying, we have nanocrystals of fenofibrate uniformly distributed in the methylcellulose matrix.”

Smaller tablets, more drug

Once the nanocrystal-loaded particles are formed, they can be squashed into powder and after that compressed into tablets, utilizing basic drug production strategies. Alternatively, the scientists can put their gel into molds rather of leaking it into water, enabling them to produce drug tablets in any shape.

Using their nanoemulsion method, the scientists had the ability to accomplish drug loading of about 60 percent. In contrast, the presently readily available solutions of fenofibrate have a drug concentration of about 25 percent. The method might be quickly adjusted to pack even greater concentrations by increasing the ratio of oil to water in the emulsion, the scientists state.

“This can enable us to make more effective and smaller drugs that are easier to swallow, and that can be very beneficial for many people who have difficulty swallowing drugs,” Chen states.

This technique can likewise be utilized to make thin movies — a kind of drug formula that has actually ended up being more commonly utilized recently, and is particularly helpful for kids and older individuals. Once a nanoemulsion is made, the scientists can dry it into a thin movie that has actually drug nanocrystals embedded in it.

It is approximated that about 90 percent of the drugs now in advancement are hydrophobic, so this method might possibly be utilized to establish solutions for those drugs, along with hydrophobic drugs that are currently in usage, the scientists state. Many commonly utilized drugs, consisting of ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs such as ketoprofen and naproxen, are hydrophobic.

“The flexibility of the system is that we can choose different oils to load different drugs, and then make it into a nanoemulsion using our system. We don’t need to do a lot of trial-and-error optimization because the emulsification process is the same,” Chen states.

Calvin Sun, a teacher of Pharmaceutics at the University of Minnesota, explains the nanoemulsion method as an “elegant process.”

“It is impressively flexible in terms of accommodating a wide range of drug loadings and tunable drug release rate,” states Sun, who was not associated with the research study. “If implemented at the commercial scale, it will have a far-reaching impact in the development of oral solid dosage forms of poorly soluble drugs.”

Reference: “Design and Use of a Thermogelling Methylcellulose Nanoemulsion to Formulate Nanocrystalline Oral Dosage Forms” by Liang-Hsun Chen and Patrick S. Doyle, 7 June 2021, Advanced Materials.
DOI: 10.1002/adma.202008618

The research study was moneyed by the National Science Foundation, the Singapore National Research Foundation, and the Think Global Education Trust.

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